For over a century, the world has been preoccupied with children’s work and the risks to their health and well-being. Despite progress in enacting laws and developing programs, millions of children are exposed daily to hazardous work. According to the International Labor Office, out of an estimated 240 million children who work, 170 million are believed to be engaged in harmful activities. In Egypt, estimates of child workers range from 1.5 to 2.5 million. Many studies have focused on understanding the nature of child labor and its causes in Egypt and other countries. While these studies vary in approaches and focus, few identify the gender dimensions. Yet, in gendered societies such as Egypt, social perceptions and attitudes towards men and women operate at every level and sphere, whether at home, school or the workplace.
In the context of child labor, these gender attitudes and perceptions are also reflected not only in the nature of work that the children undertake but also in the gender-differentiated risks girls and boys face. Such analysis provides critical information that would allow policymakers to better target policies and programs to the specific conditions that affect girls and boys.
In an ideal world, these children should be enjoying a childhood of learning and development free of any form of risk. However, they continue to share the burden of poverty and of failures in social services and systems. Until such a time when all children can enjoy an education and a healthy childhood free of hardship, we continue to expand our knowledge of their conditions in the hope that if they must work, then at least their working conditions can be safer with minimal risk to their current and future well-being.