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Cablegate: Forced Labor and Child Labor in the Production Of

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0387 1531415
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011415Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5034
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000387

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA, DRL/ILCSR FOR MITTELHAUSER, G/TIP FOR
STEINER; DOL/ILAB FOR RIGBY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ELAB ECON EIND PGOV SY
SUBJECT: FORCED LABOR AND CHILD LABOR IN THE PRODUCTION OF
GOODS

REF: STATE 43120

1. Summary: The sectors of the Syrian economy that are
involved in the production of goods are agriculture,
petroleum, textiles, pharmaceuticals and refined food
products. In 2007, fuel oil accounted for roughly 70 percent
of Syria's USD 110 million in exports to the U.S., with the
remaining 30 percent consisting of textiles, garments,
handicrafts, spices, teas and apricot paste. Due to the
rising cost of living, poor families have an increasing
incentive for seeking to illegally employ children to satisfy
substitute needs. The Syrian Labor Law purports to provide
for the protection of children from exploitation in the
workplace. Technically, parental permission is required for
children under age 16 to work, and the minimum age for
private sector employment in non-physical labor is 15. In
practice, however, this law is neither vigorously enforced
nor respected. Due to the strained bilateral relationship
and notoriously inaccurate Syrian government statistics, Post
cannot obtain exact labor statistics from the host
government. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- -----
No Known Exploitative Labor in Production of Goods
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. The majority of children that work in a good-producing
industry in Syria do so informally without remuneration.
Most children under age 16 who work do so for the parents in
the agricultural sector. It is also common for Syrian
fathers to arrange unpaid "internships" for their teenage
sons to acquire practical skills and experience by working in
factories owned by the fathers' friends. There have been no
publicly reported incidences of either exploitative child or
forced labor in the production of goods, although a report by
the Arab Council for Childhood and Development estimated the
total number of Syrian children who performed "tough jobs in
unhealthy working conditions" at over 600,000.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Government Institutions Addressing Exploitative Labor
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. The Syrian Labor Law is the basis for preventing the
exploitation of children in the workplace. The law states
that the minimum age of private-sector employment is 15 for
non-physical labor, and 18 for heavy labor. Parental
permission is required to employ children aged 16 or below.
According to the law, wage-earning child employees may work a
maximum of six hours per day, and are not permitted to work
night shifts, weekends or holidays. However, those children
working for family businesses and who are technically not
paid a salary -- a common occurrence -- do not fall under
this law. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has the
responsibility for monitoring employment conditions for
workers under age 18. Within the ministry, the Labor
Inspection Department is charged with enforcing the labor law
by conducting unannounced spot checks at work sites, but the
frequency and scope of these checks is unknown. In December
2006, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs stated that
most Syrian children who work do so seasonally and for a
limited amount of time.


CORBIN

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