The International Labor Organization, together with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, reports a sharp jump in child labor worldwide, reaching 160 million for the first time in 20 years, including the addition of 8.4 million in the last four years.
The international organizations warn that nine million more children may be forced into child labor by the end of 2022 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the two organizations, the rising trend in child labor may be reversed by providing adequate social protection for all, such as, universal child benefits as well as increased spending on free and good quality schooling, and getting all children back to school, including those who were out of school even before the coronavirus pandemic.
MANILA — In twenty years, progress to end child labor has been reversed from the previous downward trend seen between 2000 and 2016 by 94 million.
“Child Labor: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward,” the ILO-UNICEF’s executive summary, shows children aged 5 to 11 in child labor account for over half of the total global figure. It also shows that children aged 5 to 17 engaged in hazardous work–defined as work that could harm their health, safety, or morals–has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016.
“The new estimates are a wake-up call. We cannot stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk,” says ILO director-general Guy Ryder in a statement.
The joint report shows the agriculture sector accounts for 70 percent of children in child labor (112 million), 20 percent in services (31.4 million), and 10 percent in industry (16.5 million).
The report also shows child labor is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age. When household chores performed for 21 hours or more each week are taken into account, the gender gap in child labor narrows.
The prevalence of child labor in rural areas (14 percent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (five percent).
The impact of the pandemic on child labor
The report also warns that the effect of the pandemic could push nine million additional children into child labor by the end of 2022. The organizations say the figure could rise to 46 million if these children do not have access to or are not covered by critical social protection.
“We are losing ground in the fight against child labor, and the last year has not made that fight any easier,” says UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore.
The report further reveals that the pandemic endangers progress in regions where there has been some headway since 2016, including Asia and the Pacific.
Fore urges governments and international development banks to prioritize investments in programs that can get children out of the workforce and back into school.
The ILO/UNICEF report also calls for the promotion of decent work for adults; an end to harmful gender norms and discrimination that influence child labor are also recommended. (BG/Headline PH)
Featured image: /Data.Unicef.Org