The coronavirus pandemic has put millions of children at risk of being pushed into underage labor, reversing two decades of work to combat the practice and potentially marking the first rise in child labor since 2000, the United Nations warned on Friday. As the pandemic pummels the global economy, pushing millions of people into poverty, families may be under pressure to put their children to work for survival, the U.N. said, marking the World Day Against Child Labor.
Due to global shutdowns, the world economy is forecast to shrink 3.2% this year, according to a Reuters poll of more than 250 economists, while forecasts for global economic growth had tended to range from 2.3% to 3.6% before the pandemic struck.
The number of child laborers worldwide has dropped significantly to 152 million children from 246 million in 2000, according to the ILO. To prevent a rise in exploitation, the U.N. called upon governments to integrate child labor concerns into broader pieces of legislation, including policy on education, labor markets and human rights protections.
"As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family incomes, without support, many could resort to child labour," said Guy Ryder, director-general of the International Labour Organization (ILO), a U.N. agency, in a statement. - "Social protection is vital in times of crisis, as it provides assistance to those who are most vulnerable."
Advocates also warn that children are susceptible to being put to work while schools are closed in the effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. As poverty rises, schools close and the availability of social services decreases, more children are pushed into the workforce.
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Here are some more facts about child labour:
- Almost a tenth of all children worldwide are engaged in child labour.
- Of the 152 million victims globally, about half are engaged in dangerous work in sectors such as construction, agriculture, mining and brick and stone manufacturing.
- About 70% work in agriculture - including fishing, forestry and livestock herding - while 17% are in the service industry and 12% are in the industrial sector, including mining.
- Boys account for 58% of all victims of child labour. But this statistic could reflect an underreporting of girls' work as many of those in domestic servitude are thought to go uncounted.
- About 72.1 million child labourers are in Africa, 62.1 million in Asia and the Pacific, 10.7 million in the Americas, 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia, and 1.2 million in the Arab states.
- The prevalence of child labour is 77 percent higher in countries where there is conflict.
- The United Nations has a goal of ending all forms of child labour by 2025, as part of one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon in 2015.
Sources: United Nations, World Bank