Severe working conditions with no way out
Surviving in Yemen's harsh economy with limited choices has forced countless Yemenis to take work that affords them little social mobility, and leaves them drowning in debt.
Waheeb Abdul-Wahab, a 13-year-old, works in a mechanic shop with his 7-year-old brother, Majed, from 7a.m. to 4p.m. daily. They each make YR 1000 , less than 5 US dollars, for a long day of strenuous labor.
"My brother and I give some of the money to my mother and we keep about YR 600 for ourselves."
Waheeb added that he alone makes roughly YR 8000 to 9000 in profits for the shop owner on a daily basis, but he keeps only YR 1000 for himself.
He and his brother are an example of thousands of Yemeni children who are forced to work demanding jobs in order to sustain their families.
Tawfeeq, 25, works in Tanaweer Factory in Sana'a, which produces traditional ovens. His workday stretches from 7a.m. to 10p.m. He makes YR 800 a day.
"I could not finish my education because I need to support my family with my brothers. This job is the only one I can do that allows me and my family to survive."
Tawfeeq told Yemen Times that he has 18 siblings, and that most of his brothers work to support their family. He said that some of his brothers travel to different governorates to sell metal. Sometimes they are unable to sell anything, and their trips become a drain on their already thin time and money.
He said that he has been working at the factory for four years. He tried hard to find another factory to work in for better income. Yet his debts to the owner in his factory are still unpaid, and he has not been allowed to leave his position.
"I have been working in this factory for seven years to cover my debts to the owner, and I still need to work for another two years, " said a worker in a potato chip factory in Sana'a factory, who goes by the name Al-'Odieny.
Al-'Odieny works from 7 a.m. to 7p.m. at night, earning only YR 20,000 per month.
The problem doesn't stop at Yemenis, but deeply affects refugees in Yemen as well. The majority of refugees in Yemen suffer from harsh economic and social circumstances.
Ibraheem, 28, an Ethiopian refugee in Yemen, works in a department store in Sana'a. He said that he works from 8a.m. to 9p.m., but earns only YR 18,000, about 84 US dollars, per month.
He told Yemen Times that Ethiopian refugees all over the country are abused and economically exploited. "In stores, hospitals, restaurants, and in many other places, hundreds of refugees work very hard and make very little."
Mahmood, a refugee from Somalia, lives in Sana'a with his family and works as a janitor in a private company. He works from 8a.m. until 8p.m., earning YR 30,000 per month.
"I have been working here since 2007. My situation is better than that of others in my position, but if I tried to go somewhere else to work, I know I wouldn't find anything."
Mohammed Al-Jadery, the head of the General Yemeni Workers Union, said that there are no precise statistics on the number of low-income workers in Yemen.
He told Yemen Times, however, that the union seeks to implement the International Working Agreement, which stipulates a weekly limit of 42 work hours for all workers.
He added that the union also seeks to change law number 43, passed in 2005, which set the minimum salary at YR 20,000 a month for workers. The union plans to campaign to raise the wage in order to cover workers' family expenses.