They’ve lived through difficult situations. They’ve dealt with vulnerability at home. And they were involved in child labour. Learn about their experiences and how things are changing as a result of global cooperation and development projects.


Almost 70,000 children in Jordan are stuck in child labour, which means they work when they are still too young or they do work that is harmful to their health or even to their life. We talked to two of them: one boy whose father is too ill to work, and another boy who has a difficult family situation. Here’s what they want you to know.

Here’s what they want you to know.

What does vulnerability have to do with child labour?

Kids that live in fragile situations are more likely to fall into child labour, in order to make ends meet for their families.

Refugees face uncertain circumstances. They have escaped turmoil and find themselves in a new country, without the support they need to find stability and build a new life. In addition, when an adult family member is unable to work, it can place the whole family in a difficult situation as they try to make up for the loss of income. As a result of a lack of stability in society and individual circumstances, some families send their children to work.

The stories below explore how fragility and vulnerability can lead to child labour by focusing on two children affected by family instability and disability as well as regional insecurity.

Things are changing for the better – a result of long-term projects, local engagement, and a general spirit of perseverance in the face of hardship. Read on to learn more about how Jordan – with essential support from development partners and civil society – is responding to the vulnerability of families and putting an end to child labour.

Fragility is a continuum. Every country has an element of fragility, especially in times of crisis. In Jordan, fragility comes and goes.

Insaf Nizam, Regional Specialist, ILO

Coordination: How long-term interventions are changing policies, laws, and programmes

Despite progress on combating child labour, children still work in Jordan, especially in the agriculture sector. In that context, in 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor and the ILO implemented the project “Moving Towards a Child Labour Free Jordan”. The objective was to improve the coordination of the National Framework to Combat Child Labour, which includes enhancing child labour case referral systems and creating a database to capture children who have been employed illegally. This way, children can be identified to receive help from government ministries and public bodies.

Child labour had already been a reality for Jordanian children, due to poverty and a lack of opportunities for working families, but the war in Syria in 2013 worsened the problem. The sudden influx of 1.5 million people in a society of 7 million (an increase of 20% of the population), overloaded schools, infrastructure, and services. On top of that, the country was forced to quickly manage new policies and absorb the additional population into the labour market.

A family's garden in a refugee camp outside of Amman

The project created a child labour working group headed by UNHCR and UNICEF. (The ILO, for its part, contributed knowledge around international standards and experience in addressing child labour.) Both agencies started bringing together different actors, essentially bridging the gap between the short-term humanitarian aid and the mid-term development plans.

Very often, these two different worlds operate separately and don’t meet, which create gaps where children can fall between. We brought in humanitarian actors to discuss these challenges with the government.

Insaf Nizam, Regional Specialist, ILO

The Moving Towards a Child Labour Free Jordan project also helped conduct a national child labour survey, which included Syrian refugees. This was not only the first national survey on child labour among Syrian refugees, but the first time Syrian refugees were included in a national survey of any kind in Jordan.

Other project activities included matching children to vocational training courses, developing the curricula for those courses, and raising awareness among parents and families about the importance of staying in school.

And, in 2013, Jordan updated its National Framework to Combat Child Labour based on a new child protection law. This law promotes the coordination of all ministries to strengthen case management, including data collection and documentation, of child labour. (This update came as a result of ILO-led coordination from the Moving Towards a Child Labour Free Jordan project.)

Through various projects over the years, including Measurement, Awareness-Raising, and Policy Engagement project (MAP16), the U.S. Department of Labor and the ILO have helped strengthen the relationship between local organizations and the government in Jordan so they can better respond to cases of child labour.

According to Nihayat Dabdoub, MAP16 National Project Coordinator, the project helped to activate the National Framework to Combat Child Labour through comprehensive talks among development partners and capacity building efforts involving members of government, civil society, and the private sector.

One of the goals of MAP16 was to develop a model to eliminate child labour in East Amman that is strong enough to last even after the project completion, and then can be replicated across Jordan and throughout the Middle East.

Insaf Nizam, Regional Specialist, ILO

Local outreach: How community-based organizations directly help children

Community-based organizations often play an important role in the prevention and elimination of child labour. They work closely with the families, they know their needs and they are respected for the support they provide.

One of those local organizations is called Ruwwad. The Arabic word translates roughly to guides or leaders in English. Ruwwad aims to empower the community with skills and knowledge so they can face their current problems and dream of a better future.

It focuses its services around three key groups: children, youth, and the community. Those services include workshops on topics like sports and reading for children; accounting and languages for youth; and legal and civic awareness for the community. An upcoming report highlights Ruwwad’s work as a model for direct intervention on child labour.

Tareq Al Faqih is the manager of Ruwwad’s community affairs and is the main liaison with the MAP16 project, which provided funding for some of Ruwwad’s services. The NGO employs 30 staff in Jordan and also has branches in Egypt, Lebanon, and Palestine.

Radwan completes schoolwork while his younger sister watches

Ruwwad works with more than 1,000 children; of those, about 100 were involved in child labour. Today, those children are back in education or training.

We try to meet the specific needs of the community and adjust our activities based on their thoughts and feedback. This direct response is important because it allows people to have a say in their empowerment.

Tareq Al Faqih, Manager of Community Affairs, Ruwwad

In 2019, several public schools in East Amman were selected as candidates for a psychosocial support programme through the MAP16 project, which was implemented in coordination with the government. About 500 children were identified as at-risk of dropping out of school and prematurely entering the labour market, based on poor academic results and low attendance.

Ruwwad emerged as a service provider that could help. It became the first NGO in Jordan to be connected to a government database that tracks child labour. In this way, children were successfully identified, tracked, and re-integrated into education and eventually into the labour market.

Ruwwad essentially offers a 10-year education programme in just three years: two years of study (certified by a test administered by the Ministry of Education), followed by one year of vocational training and then a choice of continuing school or re-integrating into the labour market.

Today, Ruwwad and the government work together to help children like Radwan and Yousef realize their full potential.

Yousef spends time with his younger brother at home

Although child labour is illegal, Tareq believes that these children had little choice in the matter and had to work to help their families. Today, both Radwan and Yousef are close to finishing their education programme and then will enroll in vocational training to become chefs.

Our vision is comprehensive. We can’t make an impact without working with the child, their parents, and the community. This is an ethical and professional commitment for us.

Tareq Al Faqih, Manager of Community Affairs, Ruwwad

The NGO staff listens to them, looks out for them, and makes sure they are connected with the community. They also aim to prepare them for vocational training in the future.

Ruwwad staff have become specialized on child labour and are better positioned to serve the community through specific programming on the topic.