It probably does not comes as a surprise when we say that Afghanistan is one of the most underdeveloped states in the world. With issues ranging from human rights violation to ethnic violence and the hold of extremist groups over the state’s resources – Afghanistan has struggled to establish a strong state.
Like any other underdeveloped country, the employed population’s labor laws and working conditions are not on par with international standards. A quarter of Afghan children aged 5 to 14 work for a living to sustain themselves and their families. Most of the time, these children are placed in harsh working conditions where they are susceptible to illnesses, breathing problems, and even injury. In this article, we will look into the labor laws of Afghanistan as outlined in their constitution and legislature and how these laws are blatantly being violated by employing children to work as bonded labor.
Afghan Labor Law
The Afghan labor law rejects all forms of discrimination in employment, wages, and benefits. And yet, it still makes a distinction between the different categories of employment, i.e., white-collar jobs, blue-collar service employees, and day laborers who get paid a daily wage. The labor laws have clearly defined acceptable work conditions; however, these standards are not met due to institutional weaknesses. Working hours, part-time contracts, overtime payment, and compensation have all been clearly stated, and yet there are no checks and balances or enforcement to make sure the law is being followed.
Child Labor in Afghanistan
According to Afghanistan’s labor law, the minimum age for employment is 18 years. Children between the ages of 15 to 17 are only permitted to work less than 35 hours a week. Children below the age of 14 are not allowed to work according to the country’s law. However, extreme poverty and poor living conditions have forced families to employ their children as day laborers working in hazardous conditions. Most child labor is employed in home-based carpet industries, brick kilns, metal factories, and agriculture. Their need to earn for their family results in most children dropping out of school pre-maturely as they cannot balance their education with the demanding work.
Can We Beat This?
Illiteracy, high unemployment, continued armed conflict, and lack of public medical and rehabilitation facilities have driven families belonging to lower-income households towards chronic poverty, and by extension, child labor. The government has its hands tied as a huge proportion of the annual budget is allocated to national security. The country and its children are in dire need of social support programs that would provide financial assistance to low-income households and vocational training and education to those marginalized groups who cannot afford it.
The government of Afghanistan has failed to prohibit employers from hiring children to work in hazardous conditions. Not only does it lack the capacity to conduct workplace inspections, but the government also turns a blind eye to the factors that lead to child labor. The lack of enforcement and holding culprits to account have made eliminating labor law non-compliance a challenge to fix. However, continuing to highlight the issues will keep the topic front and center and hopefully lead to an eventual resolution of the problem. Click here to learn more about doing business in Afganistan.