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A new and better normality must include immediate, decisive and large-scale actions to face the damages that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing, directly or indirectly.

Now more than ever #WithoutChildLabour

The World Day against Child Labour, commemorated by governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, institutions and society in general, has a particularity this year. Today we receive June 12 in the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis, which has highlighted the high level of inequality and vulnerability in which many populations find themselves.

However, the current situation also presents an opportunity to rethink our actions and generate sustainable positive changes. Therefore, it is a time to reflect on the reality of the 10.5 million children and adolescents who work in the region, of which 6.3 million are in hazardous work. It is a key moment for us as societies to act accordingly and in which the political will is necessary to advance towards the achievement of target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda.

 “Now more than ever #Without Child Labour” is the message from Latin America and the Caribbean to emphasize the urgency of including children and adolescents in immediate, decisive and large-scale actions that are redesigned and implemented in the countries for the management and recovery during and after the health crisis.

The impact of COVID-19 on families in the region is serious, especially for those who do not have access to any social protection system. Many families have lost or are at risk of losing their livelihoods, even at high risk of entering or aggravating a poverty situation.

The ILO and ECLAC present, in the framework of the World Day against Child Labour, a joint analysis entitled “The pandemic by COVID19 could increase child labor in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Find it here.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the social and economic crisis because of the pandemic will increase the vulnerability of children and adolescents. Factors such as the reduction in GDP, the increase in informal employment and the closure of schools multiply the probability of an increase in child labour in the region.

 

According to ILO estimates, unemployment and underemployment will increase, which could cause many families to see child labour as an immediate subsistence strategy to face the crisis. On the one hand, children and adolescents who were not at risk of child labour would be; they could even fall into dangerous jobs. On the other hand, the conditions of children and adolescents who are already in child labour, in themselves harmful, could worsen and expose them to dangerous or, even worse, criminal forms.

In addition, the temporary closure of schools to prevent the spread of the virus has meant that children and adolescents lose a safe space and the protection of their rights, as well as food and nutrition services that in some cases were provided during classes. 

Child labour makes children and adolescents today and tomorrow more vulnerable in times of crisis. 

In the current context, female children and adolescents face an additional risk by assuming a greater workload in their own home or for third parties, which may include more hours of domestic work and care, and could gradually push them to abandon their studies. This situation also increases their vulnerability to abuse, exploitation and physical abuse.

Migrant and refugee children and adolescents are also among the most vulnerable populations. The discrimination and social exclusion deepened by the crisis and limited access to protection, education and health services make their situation more complex and could prompt them to resort to child labour.

As a proposal, the ILO and ECLAC maintain that regional efforts should focus on three interdependent strategic aspects, people-centred, in order to leave no one behind. The first refers to effective prevention to avoid the early insertion into child labour and the loss or lack of access to jobs in protected conditions for adolescents who have reached the legal age to work. The second, to identify and locate working children and adolescents. Lastly, to re-establish the rights of working minors and their families.

Ensuring the rights of children during and after the crisis is essential to build a new and better normality. The year 2021, declared the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, call us to formulate innovative, differential and sustainable responses that contribute to accelerating the rate of reduction of child labour and hazardous child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean.