At least 1,500 children, nearly three-quarters of them Syrian, beg on the street and work as roadside vendors, with a some involved in illicit activities, according to the joint study, the first of its kind in Lebanon, conducted by the International Labour Organisation, the U.N. Children’s Fund UNICEF and charity Save the Children International.
“More than 70 percent of the children on the streets are Syrians, mostly concentrated in urban centers like Beirut and Tripoli,” a spokesperson at the Ministry of Labor said.
He said the phenomenon has become increasingly widespread and obvious following the influx of some 1.5 million Syrian refugees, the highest refugee population in the world per capita.
The study found that two-thirds of street-based children in Lebanon are boys, with over half aged between 10 and 14. They earned an average of less than $12 per day.
It cited social exclusion, vulnerability of households, the influx of Syrian refugees and organized crime and exploitation of children, as the main factors causing children to live and work on the streets in Lebanon.
“The recent influx of refugees from Syria, many of whom are children, has certainly exacerbated this problem, but is by no means the core cause or consequence of children living or working on the streets,” the study said.
“The prevalence of children living or working in the streets is a long-standing issue that poses a persistent challenge that straddles larger socioeconomic issues in Lebanon.”
The study, which was supported by the Labor Ministry, said 43 percent of the children who worked were begging, while street vending accounted for 37 percent.
Most children entered the market between seven and 14 years of age and 42 percent were illiterate, it said. The majority worked more than six days a week and an average of eight and a half hours a day.
Lebanon is seeking to withdraw children from the street within the framework of its National Action Plan for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Labour, launched in 2013.