For World Day Against Child Labour this year, the focus is, “COVID-19 – Protect children from child labour now, more than ever”. The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns to check its spread are pushing the poor to the brink and children are among the worst sufferers.
One of the biggest economic fallouts of coronavirus is the impact on livelihoods. This experts, fear, can push millions of underprivileged children into child labour.
On April 26, Nobel Laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urged his government to rescue child labourers. “Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary steps…I strongly feel that in order to save the lives of children trapped in slavery and child labour across the country, this step is the only option left,” Mr Satyarthi wrote after a young girl stranded by the coronavirus lockdown died of exhaustion while walking back to her village.
There are more than 10 million child labourers in India, according to the last census, and many are kept confined to the workplace by employers. Images on television have often shown the degree of suffering that the children face. Many children were among migrant workers who started walking back to their villages with little money or food.
Across the world, there are an estimated 152 million underage workers and 72 million among them are engaged in hazardous work, according to a UN report. The report also says as much as 71 per cent child labourers are in the farm sector, 17 per cent in the service sector and 12 per cent in the industrial sector, including in dangerous mining activities.