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									 Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

      Session C-Pa 4b

Child Labour in Jordan

Sataneeh AL-ROUSAN

              Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000
                              Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

Child Labour in Jordan
Sataneeh AL-ROUSAN
Department of Statistics/Jordan
PO Box 540845
11937 Amman, Jordan
T. + 962 6 53 46 175 F. + 962 6 53 42 828


      Child Labour in Jordan

       This reason behind my decision to write on child labor is my deep belief in children rights, as
agreed in the international arena, to grow up in healthy conditions in all aspects of life far away
from exploitation, and that we are all responsible for raising new mentally, physically and socially
fit generations who are fully equipped with knowledge, science and technology that can help them
to take responsibility to innovate, to plan, and to implement inclusive development plans for
themselves and their societies.
       Since child labor is one of the areas where children are exploited and their right to a better
and decent life is abused, therefore this paper will examine the nature and the magnitude of child
labor in Jordan using whatever available statistical indicators. In the same time it will study the
data and the indicators, which are available to study and analyze this issue and what more is
needed in this area. On the other hand, the paper will give more emphasis on legislative and
judicial general forms in Jordan which was initiated to prevent child abuse and protect them from
violation, and it will evaluate the governmental and NGOS’ efforts in implementing these laws to
secure better life for children and to study the problems that they are facing in this regard.
       Finally this paper will study and evaluate what have been done up to now to prevent child
labor in Jordan, and to propose a new working plan for collecting related data and indicators that
will reflect child abuse in the child labor area.


      Le travail des enfants en Jordanie

      Si j'ai décidé d'écrire au sujet du travail des enfants, c'est parce que je crois profondément
dans les droits des enfants, tels qu'ils ont été convenus sur la scène internationale, de grandir en
conditions saines sous tous les aspects de la vie, à l'abri de l'exploitation, et parce que je pense que
nous sommes tous responsables de l'éducation de nouvelles générations qui soient aptes, aux points
de vue mental, physique et social, et dûment équipées des connaissances scientifiques et
technologiques qui pourront les mettre à même d'assumer leurs responsabilités en matière
d'innovation, de programmation et de réalisation, ceci comprenant les plans de développement
destinés à eux-mêmes et à leurs sociétés.

                                           Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000
                              Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

       Comme le travail des enfants est l'un des domaines où ils sont durement exploités et privés de
leur droit à une vie meilleure et décente, cet article vise à examiner la nature et l'ampleur du travail
des enfants en Jordanie sur la base de tous les indicateurs statistiques disponibles, quels qu'ils
soient. Il vise en même temps à étudier les données et indicateurs disponibles, en vue d'analyser le
problème et les exigences qui se posent dans ce domaine. Il entend, d'autre part, mettre l'accent sur
les mesures générales, qu'elles soient législatives ou judiciaires, adoptées en Jordanie en vue de
prévenir les abus subis par les enfants et de les protéger contre les violations, mais aussi évaluer
les efforts déployés par le gouvernement et par les ONG afin de mettre ces lois en application dans
le but de garantir une meilleure vie aux enfants et d'étudier les problèmes qu'ils affrontent à ce
       Enfin, cet article vise à étudier et évaluer ce qui a été accompli à ce jour en vue de prévenir le
travail des enfants en Jordanie et de proposer un nouveau plan de travail destiné à collecter des
données et élaborer des indicateurs aptes à mettre en évidence les abus dans le domaine du travail
des enfants.

1. Introduction

       The subject of child labor is considered one of the most significant issues since it is the main
starting point pertaining to human rights and human development issues. Moreover, today's children
are future men and women. Thus, in order to guarantee the rights of all human beings, we must
always work to have a strong basis to start from and draw up broad clear lines, visible to all, in
order to bring about a highly efficient and integrated system to help draw up policies, set up
structures and take the necessary measures that cater for children’s best interests.
       Estimates from the International Labor Organization point out that there are, in the developing
countries, about 250 million children who are active economically. These are between the ages of 5-
14. Hundred and forty ones are males and one hundred and ten are females whereas the number of
the children who work on a regular basis and who do not go to school is estimated to be about 120
       In the labor market, a child becomes exposed to a great deal of dangers whose negative effects
are not only limited to the children himself, but they also affect the whole society in which he lives.
That is because the forces of the labor market exploit children and jeopardize their lives, thus
affecting their health and growth adversely. This is besides depriving them from education
opportunities, which are considered a major factor in the formation of their personalities.
       International organizations have directed their attention towards laying down and fostering
international programs that aim at ending this phenomenon universally with the support of different
countries and by giving priority to the fighting of the worst form of labor which exploits children
the most, meanwhile, also focusing on preventive plans. Some of these most prominent
organizations are the International Labor Organization, the UNICEF, the International March
Against Child labor, Save the Children Organization, the International Fund and the Universal
Network for Human Rights.
       As a result of the gravity of this phenomenon, and despite its relatively small size in Jordan, it
is a problem that keeps on growing, especially if left without being solved, and because of Jordan's
keenness to eliminate this phenomenon, just like the other countries, Jordan has made a number of
achievements within this regard. The most prominent of which was the national plan put down for
fighting against child labor. Ministries of Labor, Education, Social Development and planning as
well as international and local NGOs have taken part in drawing up this plan. In addition, there is
also the effort of the Jordanian means of media.
       In general, there is a lack of necessary information and data that can help us recognize the size
of the problem, its density and direction and know more about the characteristics of these children's

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                              Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

families. Thus, more efforts should be exerted within this regard. And the question that we raise
now is where do we stand in terms of this problem? What is the reality of this problem in Jordan?

2. Objectives

       This paper aims at achieving the following objectives:
-   Dealing with and discussing the phenomenon of child labor in Jordan and arriving at the size and
    the shape of this phenomenon as much as possible under available and limited data.
-   Recognizing the most important procedures taken in Jordan to eliminate this phenomenon (by
    government and non-government institutions).
-   Bringing to the surface the points of weaknesses in the Jordanian legislation and programs,
    particularly those related to non-regular education, vocational training programs as well as the
    mechanisms followed for the execution of some laws.
-   Acquainting ourselves with available information, data and accurate, specialized and
    comprehensive studies related to the issue of child labor, dealing with the shortage in such
    studies and data and proposing the mechanism to fill in this gap.
-   Recommending that all preventive and remedial measures for the fighting of child labor and the
    improvement of data and information necessary to monitor this phenomenon and it.

      In this paper, information has been obtained from secondary sources, due to the lack of
specialized, comprehensive and accurate studies. We have also made use of some statistical
indicators available at government and non-government institutions.

3. Child labour in Jordan

       The phenomenon of child labor has appeared in Jordan lately, as a result of the economic and
social circumstances. And despite the fact that the size of the problem is still relatively small, it is
expected that the number of children venturing into the labor market will increase, especially as
Jordan is dominated by what is called the aspects of globalization which will have a great effect
pertaining to widening the gap between the different classes of the society and if remedial and
preventive measures with regard to this phenomenon are not taken.
       The real size of this phenomenon in Jordan is unknown and has not been examined in an
adequate scientific manner, due to the lack of statistics and accurate and specialized studies within
this regard. However, there has been some non-regular surveys which have been conducted by the
Department of Statistics in Jordan in the years 1991 and 1998 and which included some information
related to this context. A survey on employment conducted by the Department of Statistics in the
year 1991 shows that 3% of males and 1% of females whose ages are between (13-14) were
economically active. The 1998survy covered population aged 10+ in the first round; but data was
collected on population aged 15+ in the second and third round of that survey accordingly results do
not represent the reality and are not adequate due to the sensitivity with regard to collecting data on
young age groups, particularly with regard to the subject of children's labor because the Law of
Labor bans any kind of employment of those under the age of fifteen.
       The phenomenon of child labor in Jordan has taken many forms. The foremost of which was
the work of children in cars repair garages, the selling of facial tissues and newspapers in the
streets, mopping cars' windows at traffic lights and finally the phenomenon of street boys or the
phenomenon of begging, as the data of the Ministry of the Social Development shows that this
phenomenon is increasing (The Ministry of Social Development 1996). These data show that the
number of homeless children who have been arrested in the year 1995 was about 473. This number
increased in the year 1996 to reach about 703 children. Then, in the year 1997 and the year 1998,
this number began to decline, reaching 611 and 537 successively.
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                             Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

Table No. 1 Numbers of homeless children arrested by sex

  Year         No. of Male Children               No. of Female Children%            Total
  1995                 313                                  160                       473
  1996                 455                                  248                       703
  1997                 456                                  155                       611
  1998                 447                                   90                       537

      Table No. 1 shows that there is a decline in the percentage of females arrested and the reason
for that is the campaign launched by the Directorate of Social Defense in the year 1997 in a bid to
recognize the characteristics of homeless children through the social security program for the
protection of childhood and juveniles. This campaign also led to the arrest of 333 children. These
were put in foster houses of the Ministry so that their situations and their families' situations would
be examined. The campaign led to spreading awareness among the parents of homeless children,
particularly the females', because of social reasons. Thus, lessening their exploitation whether in
terms of begging or selling stuff in the streets.

4. Reasons behind child labour

      The phenomenon of child labor is regarded as a complex and intricate one, because of its
various reasons. There is not one reason that can be regarded as the main one and which has caused
the problem in Jordan. On the contrary, there have been a set of intertwined reasons causing this
problem to come into the surface. The most important of which are the following:

4.1 Political and economic reasons

      The successive economic crises facing Jordan in the last ten years led to a decline in the rates
of the economic growth as investments became less due to the decrease of the Arab financial aid
and the growing debts of Jordan. This, on its part, reflected on the decline of the power of the
Jordanian economy to pay back this debt and the value of the Jordanian Dinar also witnessed a
decline. In the light of this, in the year 1989, there rose the need to lay down an economic reform
program in order to set right all financial and monetary imbalances. Some objectives were achieved
through this program. However, it soon had to be stopped because of the political and economic
developments taking place on both the regional and the international levels in the year 1990 and
which were due to the Gulf Crisis which added more difficulties to the economy, already burdened
with economic crises and troubles.
      The previously mentioned difficult political and economic circumstances led to the laying
down of a new program of economic reforms in the year 1993, in conformity with the new
international and regional events, especially after the Jordanian economy has become helpless in the
face of the increases in the rates of population growth ( as a result of compulsory migrations ) due
to the Gulf War Crisis and all that entailed it.
      Among the results of venturing into the economic reform program was the rise of some
problems in the society. Among these problems were unemployment and poverty. Therefore, this
led the government to adopt policies, plans, and programs that work to reduce these problems at the
present stage.
      The plans and programs prepared to put an end to the phenomena of unemployment and
poverty were complimentary and supportive to those programs which work to put an end to the
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                             Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

phenomenon of child labor, since these programs have taken on their shoulder the training and the
rehabilitation of these families to develop small projects through the program of productive
families. National aid networks, represented by the National Aid Fund, the Zakat Fund, the Fund of
Development and Employment and other social security group programs had the greatest effect
pertaining to activating this role. Most of these projects were productive and included training, and
they relied on the family and family members, including the child in that family, to achieve the
project successively. (Thus, the child in his family will have his share of training and production,
within the conditions of public safety).
      All of these crises had a great effect on the largest sector of the society, which is that of
children and which represents the largest part of the population of Jordan, as the percentage of the
population whose ages are below 15 years represented 40.1% of Jordan's total population which
was estimated at 4.9 million in the year 1999.

4.2 Social reasons

      The social reasons affecting the subject of child labor vary among family troubles, the
customs and traditions, and children dropping out of schools. Because all of these reasons represent
a key factor which pushes a child into work, we will deal with every one of them on its own.

a. Family troubles

      Undoubtedly, the separation of a husband and wife, because of divorce will have effects on
the family, mainly adverse effects and these will reflect on the children and their psychological
structures, thus, they become more exposed to psychological conflicts. It will also create in them a
feeling of being lost. Under these circumstances, these innocent children grow to be without
protection, and they do not have any guide or assistant who can lead them into the right direction.

Table No. 2 Divorce cases during the ‘90s

                Year                                 Frequency of Divorce Cases
                1995                                                 6315
                1996                                                 6317
                1997                                                 6535
                1998                                                 7671

       Table No. 2 shows that divorce frequency increased noticeably in the years 1997 and 1998
successively where the reasons for families troubles vary among the divorce and the father walking
on his wife and children, polygamy and the large size of the family. Divorce frequency during the
year 1998 was about (7671). Statistics also show that the rate of divorce frequency between
husbands and wives who do not have children was 73.3% whereas this percentage was 26.7%
among divorced couples who had children. These rates are considered quite high. Moreover,
statistics from the Ministry of Social Development, through examining the cases that was conducted
by the Ministry, has revealed that most of the beggars and homeless children share one thing , that
is family troubles.

b. Customs and traditions

     Many wrong convictions govern the behavioral patterns of some families. Among these
convictions is that the presence of the child in the labor market makes him learn a profession and
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helps in the developing of his personality "the principle of passing on a craft form the master to the
young boy" believing that regular schooling does not pay financially as unemployment is very high
among the educated persons. Also, the prevailing impression that a child's transfer from regular
education into vocational training was a good proof that a child was a failure in regular education.
All of these convictions had a negative influence with regard to growing wrong values and
principles among parents and children.
      All of these convictions result from many reasons such as the low level of the education of the
head of the family, the low level of awareness pertaining to the risks of employment, in addition to
the absence of the rights of children with the presence of a marginal place for them in the labor

c. Dropping out of schools

       The factor, dropping out of schools, is considered one of the main factors that drives children
into work as this dropping out of schools goes back to many reasons such as school violence, bad
company, the belief that unemployment exists between the learned groups, parents' inability to
provide their children with school needs. Here, we will focus on the causes related to the school, its
educational system and the ability of this system to keep students, on the one hand, and its internal
efficiency, on the other. At this point, we must also point out two main issues. These are the rates of
continuing the schools and the issue of the coefficient of efficiency.
       Since the issue of the rates of continuing in school is affected by two main factors which are
the question of dropping out of school and the matter of flunking in school, and thus, these issues of
dropping out and flunking school primarily depend on the efficiency of the internal system of the
school, since the system is considered efficient if it were to produce (limited input of human,
monetary and material resources) at the lowest cost for the required output, as it is regarded as one
of the most important indicators that show the efficiency of the internal system as it is regarded as a
correlation coefficient that sums the effects of repeating classes and dropping out of schools on the
process of education.
       These indicators (the coefficient of efficiency and the rates of continuing in schools) show an
amount of waste (despite its low percentage) resulting from dropping out of schools and repeating
classes. Thus, this leads us to look more closely into the dimensions of this phenomenon through
conducting specialized studies and researches within this regard.

5. Local programs directed at child labour

      Because the phenomenon of child labor is very comprehensive and it has various angles,
forms and causes, there has been a need for all efforts of all government and non-government
sectors to join together. The most outstanding of these sectors which have dealt with this
phenomenon are:

5.1 The Ministry of Labour

      In the year 1999, Jordan's Ministry of Labor has founded a special division that caters for
children's affairs in the Directorate of Studies and information. Among its tasks is conducting
comprehensive social and economic surveys and studies on this phenomenon by providing a data
basis on juveniles labor and setting programs to eliminate this phenomenon to contribute in setting
strategies for different countries, in addition to taking care of juveniles all over the world, making
them aware of their rights and providing them with appropriate professional training opportunities.
      The Ministry of labor has put down many laws that work to provide security and protection
for these juveniles. Among these legislation are :
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-   A juvenile who has not completed the age of sixteen may not be put to work in any manner or
    form, bearing in mind the special provisions pertaining to vocational training (Law of Labor (8),
    the paragraph of Article No. 73).
-   A juvenile who has not completed the age of seventeen may not be put to work in any dangerous,
    tiring or health jeopardizing job and these jobs shall be determined by decisions taken after
    attaining the opinion of competent official parties. ( the paragraph of Article No. 74 of the same
-   A child may not work more than six hours a day provided that he takes a one-hour break after 4
    hours of continuous work and the working hours should fall between 6 AM and 8 PM.
    Moreover, children shall not be allowed to work during weekly, religious, and official feasts and
    holidays. (The paragraph of Article No. 75 of the Law of Labor).
-   Hazardous jobs which children under the age of seventeen should not be allowed to work in
    include those jobs which necessitate dealing with mechanically operated machinery and
    equipment, and which cannot be made safe, machines pertaining to the maintenance of oil and
    gas, work in thermal and compressed gas fields, operating and running cranes, assembling,
    formulating and testing electrical machines and circuits, construction works, explosives, fire
    extinguishing, works that demand physical effort such as lifting weights, works in which the
    worker is exposed to dust and fumes, and work in hotels and places of public entertainment.
    Moreover, children who are under the age of eighteen and females, in general, shall be banned
    from working in mines and mining (A special decision pertaining to hazardous or tiring or
    Juveniles health jeopardizing jobs, 1997).
-   Jordan endorsed all Arab and international agreements pertaining to child labor.

      The directorate of inspection at the Ministry of Labor monitors the provisions of the law of
labor, by-laws and decisions issued in accordance with them, including juveniles labor. The number
of inspection offices is 17, distributed among the governorates and provinces of the Kingdom . The
number of labor inspectors is 84. Sixty eight are specialized in the conditions of labor and sixteen
inspectors are specialized in labor circumstances and labor environment.

5.2 The Ministry of Social Development

       The Ministry of Social Development deals with homeless children and beggars (such as those
who sell chewing gum, facial tissues and newspapers) through the Directorate of Social Defense in
a bid to reduce, as much as possible, the spreading out of this phenomenon and in order to recognize
the groups which practice them so as to arrive at suitable solutions, after conducting studies on the
cases on their hands .Studies carried out by the Ministry have shown that the material need is not a
main reason that drives children to work or beg , since it has been found out that, in a group of 230
children who have been admitted to a juvenile center, there were 63% (145) of the children begging
or selling stuff for professional reasons while there were 37% (85) of the children working because
of the financial need of their families .
       The Ministry had played an effective role in reducing this phenomenon through programs set
to fight poverty. The most important of which is "The Program of Productive Families". and the
number of the programs implemented up till 30/4/1999 is 798 at a gross cost of JDs 528778.

5.3 National Task Force for Children

     In the summer of 1997, the Unit of Research and Data at the National Task Force for Children
conducted a study on children's labor in Jordan. The study examined a sample of working children
in poor areas and some industrial areas as well as refugee camps in some of the cities of the
Kingdom. And upon the recommendations of the study, the Force in cooperation with the
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                             Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

International Labor Organization organized a workshop on children's labor in Jordan where the
participants from government and non-government organizations laid down a national agenda to
deal with child labor in Jordan in terms of the following aspects:
- Suggesting studies to put down a national plan.
- Proposing programs for the protection and rehabilitation of working children. (regular and non-
   regular education)
- Submitting suggestions on the legislation and their execution and spreading awareness, as well
   as dealing with the social and economic circumstances of the poor families.

      In cooperation with members of the National Committee for Children (government and non-
government organizations), the Force also works in order to set programs that help eliminate this
phenomenon. It also supervised the drawing up of the draft law of the Law of the Jordanian Child
and that is currently put before the Prime-Ministry. In addition, it trains and promotes the universal
declaration of children's rights and the conviction of the rights of the Arab child as well as
coordinating national research efforts, programs and projects pertaining to child labor.

5.4 Coast Scope Social Development Institution in the Middle East

      This institution carries out a friend program to children who are exposed to dangers. It works
on building a professional relation between a child and a grown up trained person. The program
also works on providing economic programs that fulfill their material, educational, needs as well as
those related to training, development, professions and various psychological behaviors. Moreover,
it conducts studies on research work, by taking part in them, and other studies on economic
feasibility. It also sets programs with the participation of the working children themselves.
      Among the projects that shall be carried out by this institution in cooperation with the Greater
Municipality of Amman is the project of vegetables open market in the Central Market for
Vegetables in the area of AL-Hussein Cin Amman as children will be provided with special selling
standing places of their own to sell vegetables in the market instead of being exploited by
merchants. Thus, the project will be capable of providing a good income for the children and their
families. The supervisors of the project insist that the children go back to school and work in the
project in turn among themselves. Thus, fighting poverty, raising the level of education and
contributing indirectly in weakening the factors leading to the phenomenon of street children.
      Here, we mustn't also forget to mention the great role that some of charitable organizations
and funds play in providing financial support for the families of those children.

6. Programs evaluation

      The efforts exerted by all the sectors working in this field are considered the corner stone
placed in a bid to reinforce a solid structure capable of facing and uprooting the problem in our
hands. In order to achieve this objective, we had to look with the purpose of evaluation at the
programs set for this purpose in an attempt to arrive at solutions and that is in cooperation with all
of the concerned parties. Through the evaluative insight, we have found that these programs lack
the following:

- The Jordanian Law of Labor does not cover children working in family projects and agricultural
  activities and serving at houses. Thus, a large number of working children do not fall under the
  legal protection of the law.
- There is another gap in the Law No. 8 for the year 1996. We notice that the Law bans the
  employment of the juvenile who has not completed the age of seventeen in hazardous, tiring or
  health jeopardizing jobs whereas this law is in contrast with the international agreement No. 138
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                              Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

  in terms of the minimum age of employment which is eighteen. This means that the child does
  not enjoy legal protection from the age of seventeen up till the age of eighteen.
- There isn't enough regular oversight carried out by the Ministry of Social Development, due to
  the shortage in the numbers of inspectors and because of the little training they have with regard
  to all of the articles in Children's Rights Agreement.
- The lack of a mechanism that governs the Law of Compulsory Education.
- The Lack of integrated coordination among the efforts exerted by government and non-
  government organizations.

7. Results and recommendations

      This paper has shown that the subject of child labor in Jordan is an intricate and complex one
and it can’t be attributed to just one factor. On the contrary, all factors intertwine and work together
and consequently lead to the rise of this phenomenon. We must also bear into our minds that the
influence of some of these factors, in some cases, might be more than that of other factors.
      In spite of the lack of data and specialized comprehensive surveys, we can, through the
available data find that the size of child labor at the current time is still relatively small.
Nevertheless, we have to lay down plans and preventive and remedial programs to control this
phenomenon and eliminate it through the following:
1. Arriving at general agreement on the indicators that are to be examined with regard to the subject
   of children's labor through holding seminars and conferences.
2. Carrying out a real evaluation of the size of the phenomenon in Jordan, through carrying out a
   comprehensive survey, in cooperation with all concerned parties, whether Arab, local or
3. Providing regular surveys and studies to follow up the development of the phenomenon.
   Developing a set of indicators and variables to be used in studying the phenomenon of child
   labor, in its various angles and dimensions.
4. Activating the efficiency of regular education, through going on with the development of the
   curricula and making the output of education programs and training suitable to the requirements
   of the labor market, through continuous studies to provide regular information about the labor
   market. Also, through spreading awareness of the concept of child labor and rights, through
   school programs as well as disseminating awareness among children and their parents with
   regard to the importance of education.
5. Developing non-regular education so that it will become connected with regular education,
   through providing programs directed at working children through rehabilitating and training
   them to carry out various activities . Also, providing material and moral support to them .
6. Providing protection for working children through improving their working conditions and
   rescuing children from hazardous jobs .
7. Activating the local society programs of social development through developing an integrated
   national plan for fighting poverty and through coordinating between these programs and
   assistance to prevent dualism .
8. Improving the efficiency of the mechanisms pertaining to children labor, particularly in the
   Ministry of Labor, through increasing the number of inspectors in remote areas, and in the
   Ministry of education, since we have to lay down a mechanism that governs compulsory


Department Of Statistics, 1999, Jordan in Figures, Amman-Jordan.

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                            Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

Institution Of Vocational Training, 1998, Annual Statistical Report, Amman-Jordan.

Aboud, Janet, Child Labor In Jordan, 1997, A National Study, Amman-Jordan.

Khawaja, Sadeq, 1999, Child Labor in Jordan, Amman-Jordan.

Ministry Of Labor, A Paper On Child Labor, Amman-Jordan.

Al-Nahar, tyseer, 2000, Education For Everybody, An Evaluation Of The Year 2000 Amman-

Ministry Of Social Development, 1996, The Annual Statistical Report, Amman-Jordan.

                                         Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000

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