Child labor has increased worldwide for the first time in the past two decades. This was denounced by the International Labor Organization, ILO, and Unicef in a report which emphasizes that the coronavirus crisis threatens to push millions of other young people towards the same fate. According to the joint study, the number of child workers was 160 million in early 2020, an increase of 8.4 million in four years. The increase began before the pandemic hit and marks a dramatic reversal of a downward trend from the 94 million decline recorded between 2000 and 2016, and nearly 50 million more children could be forced into child labor according to the report. in the next two years. “We are losing ground in the fight to end child labor,” said UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore, stressing that “the Covid-19 crisis is further worsening the situation. Now, in a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions and falling national budgets, families are forced to make heartbreaking choices. ” If the latest poverty projections increase as a result of the pandemic, another nine million children will be pushed into child labor by the end of 2022, the report said.
In particular, there is a significant increase in the number of ‘child-workers’ aged between 5 and 11, which now make up over half of the total global figure. In addition, since 2016, children between the ages of 5 and 17 have risen from 6.5 million to 79 million in dangerous work, a definition that includes work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morale.
“The new estimates are a wake-up call. We cannot stand still while a new generation of children is put at risk, “said ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, who then points a way:” Inclusive social protection allows families to keep their children in school even in the face of economic difficulties. Increased investment in rural development and decent work in agriculture is essential. We are in a decisive moment and a lot depends on how we respond. It is the time for a renewed commitment and energy to overcome the crisis and break the cycle of poverty and child labor ».
In sub-Saharan Africa, population growth, recurrent crises, extreme poverty and inadequate social protection measures have led to 16.6 million more children engaged in child labor in the past four years, Ilo and Unicef. And the report also points out that even in regions where there has been some progress since 2016, such as Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean, Covid is putting that progress at risk. According to the report, 9 million other children globally are at risk of being pushed into child labor by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic: and a simulation model shows that this number could rise to 46 million if they do not have access to basic social protection coverage.