Hamdan says: "I would prefer to go to school and learn something.But without me, we could not survive." Photo: Mitscherlich/CARE
Abdulwahad is 13 years old, and has been working in a small store in Mafraq, in the North of Jordan for the past six months. Photo: Mitscherlich/CARE

CARE promotes cash incentives to keep children in school

Amman, 5 June 2014 - Ahead of the International Day against Child Labour on 12 June CARE raises concerns that the percentage of Syrian refugee children being pulled into the labour market and out of school, continues to rise with every day the crisis continues. The Jordanian government estimates that child labour has doubled nationwide to 60,000 since the Syria Crisis started more than three years ago.

More than half a million urban refugees in Jordan and almost 1,100 000 refugees in Lebanon are struggling to cope with rising costs of living. According to a recent assessment by CARE in April 2014, 90 percent of the refugees in Jordan live in debt to landlords, relatives, neighbours or shopkeepers, with prices for rent having increased by almost a third in the past year.

Approximately 36 percent of the families registered with CARE in Jordan are headed by women. They have fled without their husbands, who are either still in Syria or have died. “In a lot of cases young sons have to earn the income for the family in order to survive,” says Salam Kanaan, Country Director for CARE Jordan. CARE’s study shows that only 52 percent of Syrian refugee boys are currently attending school (compared with 62 percent of girls). In Lebanon, the number is even lower, with just 30 percent of Syrian refugee children being enrolled in school.

 “It is an easy equation: The longer refugee families live in neighbouring countries, the more financially vulnerable and destitute they become. With no more assets and no male head of household who can work, children have to contribute to cover the monthly expenses, and have to quit school,” says Kanaan.

CARE Jordan is providing conditional cash assistance to encourage parents to keep their children in school and to not engage in child labour. The payment will act as a substitute for the income that would be lost. CARE will also support the families in identifying alternative sources of income. The financial support will extend over ten months at a value of 100 US Dollar per month for 100 families. “We are piloting this new approach. If is going to be successful to prevent child labour, we will scale it up and run it country-wide,” Kanaan explains.

In addition, the social and psychological impact of children working is increasingly worrying. It is officially illegal to work or employ anyone under the age of 16 in Jordan and Lebanon, and many children encounter the worst forms and conditions  of child labour. “Working more than 12 hours every day, often under deplorable and alarmingly exploitative conditions without appropriate safety equipment adds an extra scar on children’s hearts, who are struggling to cope with memories of war and flight. Some of them are collecting scrap metal and plastic bottles, others work in coffee shops or on construction sites,” Kanaan says.

 “A young Syrian woman, who volunteers in CARE’s community centre in Azraq Camp and used to study law, mentioned  that the concern of not being able to contribute to rebuilding her country does not let her sleep at night anymore. For the past three years, the most critical investment in the country’s future – its children and youth – has failed,” Kanaan says.

Without further support being provided to Syrian refugee families, including legal access to the labour market and further job opportunities for those over 16, more and more Syrian children will have to work and continue to be deprived from an education.

Read more about CARE's response to the Syria crisis. 

About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. CARE has been working in Jordan since 1948. CARE Jordan has extensive experience working with refugees, providing livelihood training and opportunities, emergency cash assistance, information sharing and psychosocial support to Iraqi refugees since 2003.

CARE’s Syria Response: CARE’s provision of life-saving services to Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt and to people affected by the crisis in Syria has already reached more than 290,000 people. In Jordan, CARE provides Emergency Cash Assistance for refugees so they can pay for basic living costs, including rent, medication and food. CARE assists with vital information on how refugees can access further health, legal and social support and provides psychosocial assistance to women, men and children. CARE Lebanon repairs water and sanitation infrastructure, provides health education sessions, works with municipalities to improve water supply and sanitation infrastructure for refugees as well as for host communities. Syrian volunteers, who are refugees themselves, are an integral part of CARE’s Syria Response. Alongside Jordanian and Lebanese volunteers, they assist in organising and preparing distributions of relief items.

During the winter months, CARE helped families in Jordan and Lebanon to prepare for and cope with the cold winter, distributing cash, heaters, fuel vouchers, blankets and floor mats. CARE Egypt has started raising awareness among the refugees of sexual exploitation and other forms of gender-based violence to protect them from any form of abuse. Our support to families affected by the crisis in Syria is based on humanitarian needs alone, no matter which religion, political affiliation or ethnicity people belong to.

Designed and Produced by ACW