On World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) 2020, the ILO and UNICEF are warning that the COVID-19 crisis could push millions of vulnerable children into child labour. In a joint report COVID-19 and child labour: A time of crisis, a time to act, the UN agencies raise the alarm that the reduction in child labour, down 94 million since 2000, is now at risk.
The report points to mounting evidence that child labour has increased as schools closed during the pandemic. Job and income losses due to the crisis may result in parents being unable to afford to send their children to school when classes reopen. “As a result, more children could be forced into exploitative and hazardous jobs. Gender inequalities may grow more acute, with girls particularly vulnerable to exploitation in agriculture and domestic work”.
The warning is reiterated by the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA), of which the IUF is a member. In its WDACL statement, IPCCLA says that it is deeply concerned about the potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis on child labour in agriculture and “the potentially lasting deleterious effects on child growth and development”. The statement underscores that 70 per cent of child labour worldwide takes place in agriculture alone, affecting 108 million girls and boys.
IPCCLA is calling for “immediate nationally and internationally coordinated responses to provide support to vulnerable rural households so as to prevent a situation where families fall deeper into poverty and deploy more children in agricultural labour”.
IUF general secretary Sue Longley called for increased efforts to eliminate child labour in agriculture, emphasizing that “We have not seen the decline in child labour that has been seen in other sectors. On the contrary, figures issued last year showed an increase of 10 million children working in agriculture since the previous estimates from 2012.”
Calls to action
To raise awareness of child labour in agriculture the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the International IPCCLA, has produced a short film, “Meant to (L)earn: a discussion about child labour in agriculture”. It is presented by France 24 journalist and presenter Valériane Gauthier with representatives of the ILO, the FAO and the IUF. Molly Namirembe, a former child labourer in the Ugandan tea sector, describes how she was pushed into child labour and how she got out.
Watch here the FAO Knowledge virtual debate on how we can stop child labour in agriculture in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Get child labour out of cocoa and chocolate
The IUF, EFFAT-IUF and affiliates representing workers in the cocoa and chocolate industry are again calling for action to eliminate child labour in cocoa growing, where there are still thousands of child labourers, some of them trafficked from neighbouring countries.
Click here to read ‘Child Labour – The Bitter Side of Chocolate’ from our Austrian affiliate PRO-GE (in German).