Child labor increases for first time since 2000: UN | Business and Economy News
“We are losing ground in the fight against child labor,” warns the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Child labor has risen to 160 million – the first increase in two decades – and that number could rise by millions more due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN said on Thursday.
A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that 8.4 million children have been forced into child labor in the past four years and that nine million more are at risk of following a similar trajectory by the end of 2022 as a result of COVID-19.
And the worst-case scenario is even more worrying. An ILO simulation model has shown that the number of children at risk could reach 46 million if they do not have access to essential social protection coverage.
“The new estimates are a wake-up call. We cannot stand idly by while a new generation of children is put at risk, ”ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in a press release.
“We are at a pivotal moment and it depends a lot on how we react. Now is the time for renewed commitment and energy to turn the corner and break the cycle of poverty and child labor.
Governments and international organizations have made considerable progress in eradicating child labor. Between 2000 and 2016, it fell by 94 million children, according to ILO figures. But the past four years have seen a worrying reversal of this trend.
Children between the ages of five and 11 doing child labor now account for more than half of the global total, according to the report’s findings. And the number of children aged 5 to 17 who perform work that is dangerous or harmful to their health, safety or morals has increased from 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016.
The agricultural sector accounts for 70 percent, or 112 million, of working children.
Some regions are doing less well than others. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population growth, extreme poverty and lack of social protection programs have pushed 16.6 million more children into child labor in just four years.
And the coronavirus pandemic threatens progress in Asia-Pacific as well as Latin America and the Caribbean, have warned the ILO and UNICEF.
The economic crisis and school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have left millions of children more vulnerable to working longer hours, in worse and worse conditions and in dangerous jobs.
“We are losing ground in the fight against child labor, and last year has not made this fight easier,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
“Now, well into a second year of global shutdowns, school closures, economic disruption and squeezing national budgets, families are forced to make heartbreaking choices.”
UNICEF and the ILO have urged governments and international financial institutions to invest in programs that get children back into school.
Almost 28 percent of children aged five to 11 and 35 percent of children aged 12 to 14 engaged in child labor are out of school, according to the report.
UN agencies have also called for adequate social protection, including universal family allowances.