Child Labor in Egypt's Cotton Fields
January 1, 2001

Each year over one million children between the ages of seven and twelve are hired by Egypt's agricultural cooperatives to take part in cotton pest management. Employed under the authority of Egypt's agriculture ministry, most are well below Egypt’s minimum age of twelve for seasonal agricultural work. They work eleven hours a day, including a one to two hour break, seven days a week—far in excess of limits set by the Egyptian Child Law.1 They also face routine beatings by their foremen, as well as exposure to heat and pesticides. These conditions violate Egypt’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect children from ill-treatment and hazardous employment. They are also tantamount to the worst forms of child labor, as defined in the International Labour Organization’s Convention 182, which Egypt has not yet ratified. Children were forcibly recruited to take part in pest management as recently as ten years ago, and some farmers continue to believe that they will be fined if they resist their children’s recruitment. However, most children today are compelled to work by the driving force of poverty. By drawing attention to the abuses experienced by children engaged in leafworm control work, Human Rights Watch hopes to promote the adoption of affirmative measures by the government, including those recommended in this report.

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