Economic crisis due to Covid-19 will add 8.9 million minors to child labor

Before the pandemic, before the international conflicts that are perpetuating the economic crisis left by covid-19 and before the “considerable progress in the fight against child labor” there were more than 160 million children and adolescents working in the world; half did so in activities that could harm them physically or emotionally. This year the figure could grow to 169 million.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) and Unicef ​​released on Tuesday the latest estimates for this line of the labor market and point out that “without mitigation strategies, the number of children in child labor could increase by 8.9 million by the end of 2022, due, in large part, to the increase in poverty.

Currently we could say that one of every ten boys, girls and adolescents in the world contributes its labor force to the labor market. Labor force should not be a phrase for the smallest population, but it is precisely the group between 5 and 11 years old that has grown the most, the ILO points out that between 2016 and 2020 more than 16.8 million minors of this age joined the workforce. age range.

“Child labor is a violation of the right of all children to enjoy their childhood and a clear reflection of the breach of the most fundamental duty of governments to protect their children”, the organizations point out in the report The Role of Social Protection in Eliminating Child Labour: An Examination of Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications.

Mexico is the second country in Latin America with the highest prevalence of this problem, after Brazil. The results of the National Child Labor Survey (ENTI), released at the end of 2020, indicate that in 2019 there were 3.3 million girls, boys and adolescents with a job. Two million of them and they did jobs not allowed for their age.

“A non-contributory rural pension —in Mexico— the labor force participation of children aged 12 to 17 from the poorest households decreased”. Unfortunately that program was suspended by the federal government, the report notes.

However, the ILO stresses that the Food Support Programimplemented by the current administration “reduced the prevalence and intensity of children’s participation in economic activities in middle-income households.”

Pandemic, regions and factors

At the start of the pandemic, the general decline in economic activities also affected the work of children. But then, given the decrease in income in many households, many began to work, and those who were already working before the crisis increased their hours after the closure of schools, the report highlights.

Globally, “considerable progress had been made in reducing the child labor in the last two decades”. From 2000 to 2020, the figure fell from 245 million children and adolescents with a work responsibility, often without pay and in dangerous conditions, to more than 160 million. That is, the decrease was 85.5 million in 20 years.

Until 2016, the decline had been steady and wide. For example, in 2008 the figure was more than 215 million and for 2012 it reached 168 million, which translates into 47 million less. But from 2016 to 2020, the year of covid-19, the situation changed and there was an increase “of more than 8 million, going from 152 to 160 million children, of which 79 million worked in dangerous conditions”.

By regions, Africa remains the continent that, affected by centuries of colonization, racialization, looting and poverty, has the working child population biggest in the world. There, more than 92.2 million boys and girls work, that is, 22% of the total population.

Asia and the Pacific reports 5.6 million. However, that figure represents 49% of its children and adolescents. Latin America and the Caribbean it has 8.2 million—at least 3.3 of them live in Mexico—that is, 6 percent.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the decrease of 6 million girls and boys working from 2008 to 2020 was due, in large part, to “the fact that the child population was reduced by 4.8 million,” says the ILO. By contrast, in Asia and the Pacific it increased its children population in 12.8 million in the same period and, at the same time, it prevented almost 65 million girls and boys from continuing to work.

Some factors that make child labor prevail are monetary and multidimensional poverty. Education, or the non-schooling of children, is also linked to child labour. “It is essential that families can afford to send their children to school, and that households perceive that the benefits of schooling are greater” than employment for that age, highlights the ILO.

Informality is another factor. “Approximately 2,000 million workers around the world” work in this way, which leads them to “extreme job insecurity. Besides, the labor informality translates into less access to contributory social protection schemes and inaccurate social assistance”.

Social protection, a way for everyone

Count on social protection “reduces poverty and the vulnerability of families, thus reducing the main factors that drive child labor,” the report states.

However, the vast majority of people in Mexico and the world work without social protection. Globally, 74.%, that is, more 1.5 billion children and adolescents between 0 and 14 years old do not receive any family or child benefits in cash. In our country, 31.6 million people or 56% of the population over 15 years of age work informally.

For this reason, the ILO and UNICEF recommend prioritizing benefits for sons or daughters and expanding the social protection workers in the informal economy and support them to transition to the formal economy.

Social protection programs must be inclusive and take into account child labor and the investment in them has to be seen “as an engine of development”.

Finally, “build integrated social protection systems”. Adequate benefits throughout the life cycle, from children’s and family, maternity and unemployment to retirement pensions, as well as health protection.

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