The two-day event opened in the capital Rabat on Tuesday with the slogan "for a better integration [of efforts] to combat child labour in social development".

A statement issued by the organising Ministry of Employment said the gathering was part of the Moroccan authorities' campaign to enforce existing labour laws, which prohibits children under the age of 15 from working.

It describes the event as an opportunity to further develop and strengthen technical cooperation on child protection with specialised international organisations such as Unicef, the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (Ipec) and the World Bank.

The Moroccan Ministry of Labour estimates that there are about 600,000 chid labourers in the kingdom.

Children exploitation

According to a recent joint study carried out by the ministry, Ipec, Unicef and the World Bank, the 600,000 figure represents 11% of the kingdom's total 5.5 million children.

About 600,000 children work in
the country's labour force

The children are exploited by the labour market, the study says.

The study, which indicated that the age of working children varied between 7 and 14, was part of a programme called Understanding Children's Work (UCW) to draw up strategies to wipe out the child labour phenomenon.

The study indicated that 13% of all male children under the age of 15 were currently working. Nearly 79% are attending school, while another 8% are neither attending school nor working.

For female children, the number of those in the labour force was slightly lower at 9.5%, 69% attending school while 21.5% were neither going to school nor working.

Eighty-seven per cent of working children come from rural areas, while only 13% are from cities, confirms the study.

The seminar aims at best using information available on the practice, with the ultimate aim of timely up-dating and taking legal measures against violators.

It is also said to be an opportunity for ministries and international organisations to explore the kingdom's achievements in child protection.

Arab children

Children in many Arab countries are deterred from attending school and forced to join the workforce due to imbalances rooted in continued social, political and economic instability.

Unicef says millions of Arab
children do not attend school

A recent Unicef study found "the implications of surrendering the contribution of the child in housekeeping, child rearing and supplementary family income are still unaffordable for families below poverty line against the provision of incentives such as midday meal, books, uniforms etc."

According to the report, children of primary school age belonging to the poorest 20% of households in the Middle East and North Africa are 4.5 times more likely to be denied primary school opportunities than those belonging to the richest 20%.

With millions of Arab children out of school, working, or affected by armed conflict, Unicef said it was evident that much remained to be done.