According to a new report by the International Labour Organization or ILO and UNICEF, the number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million across the globe– an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward, published ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June, warns the world that progress to end child labour has stopped 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 report points to a notable rise in the number of children aged 5 to 11 years in child labour, who now account for just over half of the total global figure. The number of children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work, defined as work that is likely to harm their overall health, safety or morals, has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016.
“The new estimates are a wake-up call. We can’t stand by while a new generation of children is put at risk of exploitation,” said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General. “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 very important. We are at a pivotal moment and much depends on how we react. This is a time for renewed commitment and energy, to turn the corner and break the cycle of child labour and poverty.”
In sub-Saharan Africa, population growth, extreme poverty, recurrent crises and inadequate social protection measures have resulted in an additional 16.6 million children in child labour over the past four years.
Even in regions where there has been some progress since 2016, such as Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, the Covid-19 outbreak is endangering that progress.
The report warns that globally, 9 million additional children are at risk of being pushed into the vicious circle of child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. A simulation model shows this number could rise to 46 million if they do not have access to critical social protection coverage.
Additional economic shocks and school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak mean that children already in child labour may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, while many more may be forced into the worst forms of child labour because of the job and income losses among vulnerable families.