Child labour rises 160 million globally- Need to reclaim the lost grounds in fight against gruesomeness

Child labour India

With the first ever enormous rise in child labour count in past two decades, pandemic threatens to shove millions of kids in the abyss of exploitation owing to the closure of schools and families at the margins desperate for income.

According to a joint report, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) the child labour count have risen enormously upto 160 million at the start of 2020 – an increase of 8.4 million in four years with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The report was released ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June, it  warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between
2000 and 2016.

The closure of millions of schools in India and economic hardships of the families have impacted the fate of 247 million and exaggerated the risk of falling prey to exploitative labour. This might be labouring in dangerous industries, like mining or with heavy machinery, and working for more than 43 hours a week, which makes the fundamental right an elusive dream.

As per the Census data the incidence of child labour in India shrunk by 2.6 million between 2001 and 2011. The data shows a greater decline in rural than urban areas. Although the migration towards urban area drives the demand for child labour. But Pandemic can offset the advances made in last few decades towards eliminating child labour.

Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, the UNICEF India Representative, warns, “Children in poor and disadvantaged households in India are now at a greater risk of dropping out of school and being forced into labour, marriage and even falling victim to trafficking.”

Urging the governments and international development banks to prioritize investments in programmes, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta said, “We are losing ground in the fight against child labour, and the last year has not made that fight any easier,” Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and shrinking national budgets, families are forced to make heart-breaking choices.

There is a need to get children out of the workforce and put back into school, and social protection programmes can help families avoid making this choice in the first place.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder asserts,”Inclusive social protection allows families to keep their children in school even in the face of economic hardship. Increased investment in rural development and decent work in agriculture is essential. We are at a pivotal moment and much depends on how we respond. This is a time for renewed commitment and energy, to turn the corner and break the cycle of poverty and child labour.”

Cover image by Thomson Reuters Foundation

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