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Child Labor in Syria

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Child Labor in Syria

A friend of mine works for a French cosmetic company that manufactures their products in Syria. As I went through the rounds of asking him about his work and what he does all day – it is still beyond my understanding what business men really do – he mentioned that child labor amounts for a large portion of his company’s workforce.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Damascus, Syria- April 20, 2009
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“The children are between the ages of 9 and 15 years old,” he began, “and they get into a bus and are driven to the factory in the morning as if they were going to school. If you see them on the street you would think that they are just going to school. But they are taken to a factory where they work all day, and then in the evening they go to school for two hours.”

I found this interesting. On the surface, the urban parts of Syria seem to be pretty developed and modern – or at least the country seems to boast of a very “developed” mentality. Much of Syria is not in the stone age. It struck me as interesting that large numbers of children are working in factories full time and that a good portion of the countries workforce are children. My friend went on to tell me just how common this is in Syria.

Coming from a culture in which people are considered “children” until the age of twenty, it initially takes me aback that children would be harnessed into the mainstream workforce of a country.

But this is more usual than it is odd.

Throughout the world, as well as throughout recent history in the West, as soon as a child is able they are put to work. Some work in the family profession. If the family is made up of shepherds, then the child will herd sheep; if the family are shopkeepers, then their children will take shifts behind the counter or stock shelves; if a family are farmers, then the children will pick beans; if a family is made up of urban toilers, then I suppose the children will work in factories. It is normal throughout the world for kids to work in order to help out their families and earn their keep. It is only in the West and the high societies of the East that this is deemed at root a wrongful act.

In most countries, a child is a part of the family and must do their part, too. Sometimes, children go to school in hopes of getting a better job in the future and sometimes they just go to work. It is a matter of class, and class lines are drawn with an indelible line in Asia.

I realize that I do not think twice before buying something from a store that is virtually run by children, just as I do not think that it is odd to see a 12 year old pushing goods through a market on a trolley, but when I hear of children working in a factory it strikes me as being oppressive. Perhaps the old Dickens stories from the industrial revolution have left an indelible impression on me. Perhaps I view factory work as being oppressive to anyone engaged in it, regardless of age.

Whatever the case, I did not visit the factories myself, I did not talk with any of these kids, and can therefore only cast my judgments from afar, like a mountaineer pissing down into the gaping mouth of a volcano. But I can say that my friend did not think very highly of his company’s labor practices.

“It even says on the packages of the cosmetics that it was not made by children, but this is wrong, I see them working. It is bullshit.”


Child working in a hubcap manufacturing factory in Damascus.

Child Labor in Syria

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Filed under: Middle East, Syria

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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