A Further Nine Million Children At Risk Of Child Labor As A Result Of Covid-19 Pandemic

On June 10, 2021, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and UNICEF warned that a further nine million children were at risk of child labor as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. According to their new report, “160 million children – 63 million girls and 97 million boys – were in child labor globally at the beginning of 2020, accounting for almost 1 in 10 of all children worldwide.” This includes approximately 79 million children in hazardous work endangering their health and safety.

The report further states that: “The percentage of children in child labor remained unchanged over the four year period while the absolute number of children in child labor increased by over 8 million.” In addition, millions more are at risk due to the impacts of Covid-19. The report concludes that the progress to end child labor has stalled “for the first time in 20 years, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labor fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016.” Indeed, the 2016 assessment suggested some progress in the area. According to the 2016 report, over 152 million children were victims of child labor, ranging from forced labor, debt bondage, slavery, prostitution or illicit activities. 73 million of them worked in hazardous environments.

The new report makes it clear that Covid-19 fuels child labor with a further 8.9 million children likely to be in child labor by the end of 2022.

At the end of May 2021, Human Rights Watch, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) in Uganda, and Friends of the Nation in Ghana, published a report “‘I Must Work to Eat’: Covid-19, Poverty, and Child labor in Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda” on the effects of Covid-19 on child labor. Their report found that “The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic vulnerability for countless families around the globe, putting their right to an adequate standard of living at risk. For children who have entered child labor and missed out on education, the impact will be long-lasting.” This is highly concerning. 

With the pandemic continuing, causing school closures and job loss, more children were forced into labor. The researchers interviewed 81 children (48 boys and 33 girls) between the ages of 8 and 17 in Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda. Many of then described working at brick kilns, carpet factories, gold mines, stone quarries, fisheries, and in agriculture. Others worked as mechanics, rickshaw drivers, or in construction, while others sold items on the street, such as masks, brooms, or food. More than one-third of the children interviewed worked at least 10 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week. Some would work 16 hours a day. This included hazardous work carrying heavy items or working on unsafe conditions. Most of the children would be paid very little if at all. The report indicated that “Despite low pay, exploitation, mistreatment, and even violence, children believed that they had little choice but to continue working.” The report paints a very grim picture, amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, of the situation for children in Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda. 

As the World Day Against Child Labor approaches (on June 12), it is crucial to consider how best to respond to child labor, both generally and where exacerbated by Covid-19. The consequences of Covid-19 are expected to be felt for a long time. Children affected by Covid-19 need assistance as a matter of urgency to ensure that a generation is not lost and can have a prosperous future. This means getting them back to school. It also means ensuring that they do not have to work by providing their families with social security, for example, with universal child allowances.

As we move towards addressing the pandemic, we cannot forget about children from low-income families in developing countries that carry the weight of the economic crisis brought forward by Covid-19. Their future depends on us.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2021/06/11/a-further-nine-million-children-at-risk-of-child-labor-as-a-result-of-covid-19-pandemic/