COVID-19 Forces Many More Into Child Labour
BY: Suzann Abraham
Child labour has been a devastating issue throughout human history, taking a height in the Industrial Revolution and continuing on even today. Children are used as servants, apprentices, factory workers, and more. Working conditions consisted of crowded and unclean factories, very little implementation of safety rules, and long hours. This was their norm alongside low pay and no access to education, which created a continuing cycle of poverty. Since 2000, 20 years of progress followed resulting in a 94 million decrease in rates. Unfortunately the number may rise once again.
During the present age of quarantine, one would expect that children are protected from exposure to the virus and would be safe with their families. However, according Unicef, the rates may drastically increase and could force millions into child labour.
Today, many parents have lost jobs and are unable to pay for their children’s education. They suffer from increased unemployment, lower living standards, health risks, and insufficient social protection systems. Groups that are most subject to this are those working in the informal economy (meaning work that is not taxed or registered with the government) and migrant groups. ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, stated, “As the pandemic wreaks havoc on family incomes, without support, many could resort to child labour.” Studies show that fewer employment opportunities and lower wages can cause people to opt for exploitive work and contribute to child labour. Children are also more likely to accept work for less pay despite how vulnerable the conditions are. Many businesses purposely recruit children to cut costs and increase their profits. Countries such as Brazil, Guatemala, India, Mexico, and the United Republic of Tanzania have observed similar effects. Another issue is credit. When parents are unable to pay for the credit they have used, they tend to reduce as much household investments, for example, schooling. As mentioned above, without proper schooling and access to education, people find themselves in an endless cycle of poverty. According to statistics, when poverty increases by 1%, child labour naturally increases by 0.7%. Now that children are at home in quarantine, they are sent by parents to work in factories and waste management sites.
As a result, more children are exposed to exploitations and hazardous jobs. Gender inequality, abuse, and exploitation may be more prominent with girls vulnerable in agriculture and domestic jobs. A recent death of an 8 year old domestic worker proves the danger young ones face. Zohra Shah was beaten to death by the couple she works for simply because she set their birds free. She was taken to a nearby hospital where she was found with many cuts and bruises. A few hours later she passed away.
Organization and collaborative efforts are urging governments to take action by enforcing more social protection, easier access to credit for poorer households, any promotion of work for adults, and including measures to get children back into school without the worry of school fees. They have also asked for labour inspections and law enforcement. These organizations include Unicef and ILO. Individual efforts include those of Nigerian choreographer, Seyi Oluyole. Oluyole is part of a free arts program that uses dance, music, and drama as a way to get children back into school. Their organization performed for the audience of Global Goal: Unite for Our Future - The Concert. The campaign generated $6.9 billion to provide access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, vaccines, and support for poor communities. Oluyole says, “I use dance to bargain with them, if you stay in school you can keep dancing.” In Brazil, labour authorities have launched a campaign to combat child labour. They have gained popularity by commissioning a song about child slavery written by rapper Emicida and Drik Barbosa. Another non-profit group in Ethiopia launched a novel to get thousands of children reading while school was out. These individual and national efforts
combine as a method to combat the issue of child labour and minuscule it before it is uncontrollable.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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