This article from Bloomberg points out the increase that is seen in child labor cases due to COVID-19 after many years of gradual decline and argues that the real spike is yet to happen once lockdowns are lifted and businesses re-open.
The article in particular points out the concern they see for a drastic rise in cases in Indonesia and India (with many children already out of school prior to the pandemic).
For India, the article mentions that child labor has particularly become a concern in urban areas/cities. With poor households in these urban areas sending their children to work at manufacturing sites to help make ends meet.
Factory owners are eager to employ this work-force as they are looking to cover their financial losses by employing cheap labor and have a big gap to fill after having lost their migrant work-force with migrant laborers having fled the cities for their rural homes during lockdown.
For the future when economic activity begins accelerating, the article points out a risk of returning migrants taking children along with them to work in the cities (especially with no in-person school to attend):
“When hotels reopen, construction work starts, the railways get back on track, when everything opens up, this community that has returned will be the main source that take our children to the cities,” said Abhishek Kumar, program coordinator at SOS Children’s Villages.”
I am really saddened to hear of the new statistics and am grateful for the hard work and efforts of some of the NGOs mentioned in the article for rescuing children from some of the worst child labor conditions, yet also hope to see brands sourcing from these sites and detecting these cases to bring some positive change and potentially even to see some of these children back at school.
As many as 60 million people are expected to fall into poverty this year alone, and that inevitably drives families to send children out to work. A joint report by the ILO and United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that a 1 percentage point rise in poverty leads to at least a 0.7 percentage point increase in child labor.