Child labour

courtesy of Children First Now
MEHR photo provided by
Children First Now

Though a half a century has passed since Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the situation for the children of Iran has reached an unprecedented low.

Though Iran is sitting on the world’s second largest oil reserves, due to a fundamentally corrupt political and socio-economic system of government, it fails to provide the most essentials needs of children.

At a time in their lives when they should be in classrooms and playgrounds, learning and enjoying life, at least 14% of Iranian children (xx-need cite for original data if possible) are forced to work in deplorable and often dangerous conditions. This atrocity destroys children’s health, contributes to illiteracy and destroys the chance for a better life for thousands and thousands of children. The tragic proportion of child labour in Iran perpetuates a cycle of poverty and ignorance, degrading millions of innocent lives, and guarantees a socially and culturally retrogressive future.

Problem of child labor
Because quantitative data on the phenomenon of child labor are difficult to obtain and unreliable, we refer the reader to the qualitative data collected by child rights activists in Iran.

Stories of child laborers
Children laboring at a pottery workshop on the outskirts of Hamedan

“Work here is very hard, all day, whole year, yet our wages are less than the older ones. We don’t have a contract, and they decide how much to pay!” These are words of Ali-Reza, 13 who works in one of the Hamedan potteries. His younger friend Mohammad, who is only 9 but who because of hard work looks smaller than his age, adds: “Here I have to come to work at 5 am before every one else to prepare breakfast, and at 12 pm clean up the shop.” He continues, stammering, “If I loiter, they beat me as well as deduct from my wages!”

Sara, another juvenile working here, says: ”We have neither light nor ventilation, it is very cold in winter, and hot in summer. Our employer is rarely here. For each flowerpot we get 200 tooman, and if we manage to make 5 a day it would be 1000 tooman. We bring food from home.”

Amin, 8, who is pushing a wheelbarrow, seems very weak and skinny. When I asked him why he is working here, he got scared and mumbled: “My dad is dead, we are poor, I can’t go to school.” He had tears in his eyes and couldn’t talk more.

Children working at an automotive shop in Sanandaj

Sirvãn, who is 14 years old, is washing a car. The temperature outside is -15° C (5° F)! He must clean up the car which has just been repaired, and prepare it for delivery. Arsalãn, his co-worker, who is the same age, is trying to clean his face with his shirt. He says, “I start work at 7a.m., before the others start; I have to prepare the shop and the tools.”

Mohammad, age 9, has a big pot of oil in front of him. He is rubbing engine parts in oil. He says “My father is a construction worker. He doesn’t earn enough for the family. As the oldest child, I have to work. In the mornings, I take my little sister to school, and then come to work. I clean engine parts.”

Arsalãn says, “We work longer hours than the older ones, but they tell us that our work is less and easier, therefore we get paid less. We can’t do anything about this. If we complain, they will tell us to find another job. Some time ago, Sirvãn nearly got hit by a truck, but he got a beating from the employer for not being careful! Hygiene in the shop is non-existent. We do not have anything to get rid of the dirt and oil from our hands.”

One of the adult workers adds, “In the winter, we make open fires to keep warm. The owner doesn’t provide heating and we don’t have shade in the summers. Sirvãn should be glad that in the summer, he can at least cool himself while washing the cars.”

Children working as scavengers at a warehouse off of Khavaran highway in Tehran

Scrappers bring what ever they manage to collect here: metal, bread rests, plastic bags. The manager checks the workers’ bags one by one: different articles are weighed separately, and for each one the workers get a mark in a logbook; on this basis workers get paid. Two shanty rooms stand right in between two mountains of garbage; these are where the workers rest. For those exhausted little children who have scavenged restlessly amongst garbage of the city, these rooms are like four star hotels.

15 people sleep in these two rooms of 2×3 meters each. The room’s furniture has also been gathered from the city dumps. Blankets, pillows, kettle, even posters of football, body builders, movie stars too! Garbage not only provides their livelihood, but even gives them shelter. The walls of their rooms are made of old rusty tin foil, cardboard, and nylon bags. The rooms are infested with flies.

I don’t hold my breath, in order to experience what these children live with. The stink is unbearable.

The youngest boy in this establishment is only 8. His name is Heydar and he is an Afghan. Gathering between 20 to 30 kilos of paper and cardboard, he earns about 8000 tooman a day. The champion of these kids is a 14 year-old boy called Hashem. He brings a load of 70 kilos a day and earns 12000 tooman. In this establishment, the stronger ones collect metal and earn more. Kids tell me that Hashem doesn’t touch anything but scrap metal. Without exception, all of the kids in the establishment look up to him: they wish to earn as much. When I tell them they deserve better, they disagree and seem to be content with what they have.

excerpted from the work of naseh andarzgoo

International Standards:
UNICEF defines child labour as work that exceeds a minimum number of hours, depending on the age of a child and on the type of work. Such work is considered harmful to the child and should therefore be eliminated.

  • Ages 5-11: At least one hour of economic work or 28 hours of domestic
    work per week.
  • Ages 12-14: At least 14 hours of economic work or 28 hours of domestic
    work per week.
  • Ages 15-17: At least 43 hours of economic or domestic work per week.

An estimated 158 million children aged 5-14 are engaged in child labour – one in six children in the world. Millions of children are engaged in hazardous situations or conditions, such as working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture or working with dangerous machinery. They are everywhere but invisible, toiling as domestic servants in homes, labouring behind the walls of workshops, hidden from view in plantations.

Article 32 of the Covenant on the Rights of the Child states that:
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
2. States Parties shall take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the implementation of the present article. To this end, and having regard to the relevant provisions of other international instruments, States Parties shall in particular:
(a) Provide for a minimum age or minimum ages for admission to employment;
(b) Provide for appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment;
(c) Provide for appropriate penalties or other sanctions to ensure the effective enforcement of the present article.



  1. Through years after years we have been asking ILO to expel IRI from it. Each year in beginning of June when it is ILO assembly meeting we were there in Geneva and in the last 3 years we even were inside their meeting hall and brough down IRI flags and made speech and tried to reach out workers’ voice to all members. When you see a Government send children to war and ask them go on mines just because there is lack of proper mine founder. Going after ILO statistics when all is from IRI is useless.

    This hase been a routine in Iran for 30 years. Just in the last demonstration in 13 Aban a week ago State was short of adult as security force, they went ahead and used teenage kids with security uniform on the streets to counter attack people gathering. That is what regime we are dealing with. I agree with all needed statistics no doubt about that and we have to go bit for bit to find them, but just rely on those and do nothing till we get some statistics like that is not wise. Even any good and reliable statistics can be used for wrong purpose. We should be aware of that too. But we have gathered some statistics which came from authorities by chance. Like when chief police force in Tehran says the girl prostitution age has come to 11 years old. We take it as granted just because they are in job and have to say some thing to solve the problem they are responsible for. Like when they say addiction and smuggling among kids from very early teenage years. Or when they say 3 millions kids could not go to primary school this year just because they had to help their parents for house expenses. We can provide you with such figures. We have documents as articles and reports we can provide you.

  2. Dear Mrs/ Mr

    I would like to ask you, about your work and in which way could effect the life of labour child.

    I would happy if my action could have some possitive effect on those children.

    Best wishes.

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