Saudi Cabinet approves national policy to prevent child labor

April 07, 2021

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The minimum age for employment in Saudi Arabia is 15 years, according to a provision in the National Policy to Prevent Child Labor in the Kingdom approved by the Council of Ministers on Tuesday.

The approval of the policy, which aims to provide a safe environment for all children, is consistent with the Kingdom’s international obligations under the International Labor Organization Conventions No. 138 and 182. The Cabinet also endorsed the National Action Plan to Prevent Child Labor in the Kingdom.

Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi, who is also the chairman of the Family Affairs Council, appreciated the Cabinet’s decision to adopt the National Policy for Preventing Child Labor, saying that this policy aims to provide a safe environment that supports childhood and a society where children enjoy all of their rights guaranteed by the Islamic Shariah and the legislative system in the Kingdom.

The policy bans employing children under the age of 15 from doing work. However, there is conditional approval for those between the ages of 13 to 15 to do some light jobs for a limited period of time. The policy includes creating a database to track child labor with the support of the ILO, while also adopting a list of the types of work prohibited for those under the age of 18.

The policy also aims to improve social work and social protection mechanisms, build the capacities of specialists in this field, promote quality education opportunities for all children, and raise awareness about the subject of child labor.

The minister noted that the declaration that the Kingdom attached to the document of ratification of the International Labor Organization Convention No. 138 states that the minimum age for employment in the Labor Law in the Kingdom — or on the means of transport registered on its territory — is 15.

According to Al-Rajhi, this age represents a gain for the family and society and would prevent children from work, which is consistent with the international obligations of the Kingdom as it ratified the ILO Convention No. 182 in 2001 regarding the worst forms of child labor issued in 1999, and in 2014 it ratified the ILO Convention No. 138 regarding the minimum age for employment, as well as the Kingdom’s commitment to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Plan.

The Kingdom has also approved the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the two optional protocols to the convention related to the protection of children in armed conflicts and other situations, as well as the establishment of an institutional framework related to child labor and their protection. It also endorsed the establishment of the Family Affairs Council, which includes a specialized committee dealing with childhood issues in the Kingdom, in order to support and enhance the status of the family and its role in society and the governorate to remain strong and cohesive, concerned with its individuals.

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