BWI warns of a “child labour pandemic”

12 June 2020 08:47

Statement on the World Day Against Child Labour

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On the World Day Against Child Labour, BWI and its trade union affiliates warn of a “child labour pandemic” due to the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 to many working class families who are suffering from job losses, shrinking incomes and depleting safety nets.  

“As we collectively confront the COVID-19 crisis, we must not allow more children to be trapped in child labour, robbing them of their childhood, education and health. We must not allow a ‘child labour pandemic’ to happen,” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said.  

BWI feared that the  global health crisis could undermine the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 8.7 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. It said that there are around 152 million children trapped in labour, with 72 million children subjected to hazardous work. BWI said that it is closely monitoring the brick kilns, stone quarries and non-timber forest product (NTFPs), some of the industries where it said that child labour are employed.

BWI said that the pandemic is also forcing children from poor and vulnerable families to drop out from schools and carry the burden of care-giving and/or household responsibilities as the adult members of their families take up odd jobs to make ends meet.

Digital poverty is also a big threat to children. BWI explained that as schools and educational programs across the globe set educational work online, many poor children are being left behind due to their limited access to the internet and electronic devices, such as desktop and laptop computers. 

In line with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) theme “COVID-19: Protect children from child labour, now more than ever!,” BWI affiliates in India and Nepal are continuing with numerous efforts to address the issue of child labour and promote decent work. The unions run 15 CHILD LEARN schools and preparatory centres catering to former child labourers and are working to sustain their “Decent Education for Children, Decent Work for Adults.” In India, the unions are also  supporting the Supreme Court’s directions on monitoring  the  incidence of child labour, especially during the pandemic. BWI is also part of international initiatives, notably the Alliance 8.7 where it has committed to ensure that child labour is not tolerated in the different sectors and industries it is active with. 

Yuson said that the incidence of child labour could dramatically increase due to the worsening socio-economic situation faced by workers and their families. 

“I urge all trade unions to strongly take up this important issue and initiate actions to help minimise the risks and challenges faced by working families and ensure that their children are not pushed to work out of economic desperation. The unions must also lobby for greater internet access and affordability to poor children to narrow the digital divide,” Yuson concluded.