Latin America and the Caribbean move away from the goal of eliminating child labor due to the pandemic

Friday, June 11, 2021

PANAMA  - LIMA, June 11, 2021 - The COVID-19 pandemic is neutralizing the efforts made by the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to meet the goal of eliminating child labor by 2025, the ILO and UNICEF warned today.

In a region hard hit by the pandemic, prolonged school closings and increasing poverty among the most vulnerable families are pushing more children in Latin America and the Caribbean into child labor, after years of reduction.

The new ILO-UNICEF report (2021) estimates that 8.2 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 work in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most of these children are adolescent boys, and 33% are girls. Child labor is present in both rural and urban areas, and 48.7% is found in the agricultural sector. Slightly less than 50% of those who participate in child labor do so in family work.

More than 50% of children perform dangerous work, that is, dangerous for their health, education and well-being. Child labor is a sad reality for too many children in this region.

"The combination of job losses, increasing poverty and school closures is a perfect storm for the proliferation of child labor. Dropping out of school and entering the labor market prematurely reduces the chances of getting better jobs in the future. , perpetuating the poverty trap, "said Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. "It is true that there has been progress in the last two decades in the region, but the figures are still too high, and the social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic could cause a dramatic setback if it is not acted on soon."

"Social dialogue and international cooperation are essential for a response that includes social protection measures, more and better education, strengthening of labor inspection and decent work for parents."

Despite the decrease in child labor in the Latin American and Caribbean region by 2.3 million between 2016 and 2020, it is estimated that the crisis caused by the pandemic could reverse this positive trend.

The number of children in low-income households increased as a result of the loss of employment and income of families, and families may turn to child labor as a survival mechanism. According to the ILO and ECLAC, this practice could increase between 1 and 3 percentage points, that is, between 100,000 and 326,000 more children. [1]

“Given that many schools remain closed, and impoverished families in confinement have lost income for months and months, we are seeing more Latin American and Caribbean children drop out of school and enter child labor. Those most at risk are families that lost their income and livelihoods, "warned Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean." Latin America and the Caribbean hoped to be the first region in the world to eradicate child labor by 2025. The pandemic has made this goal increasingly difficult to achieve. More children across the region are likely to fall into child labor in the coming months, unless families are quickly helped. "

Child labor hurts boys and girls physically and mentally. Child labor compromises education, restricting their rights and limiting their future opportunities, leading to vicious intergenerational cycles of poverty and child labor.

On this World Day for the Elimination of Child Labor, the International Labor Organization and UNICEF call for an increase in spending on public services such as social protection; universal access to free, good-quality education and safe reopening of schools; decent work for adults and youth of legal working age; a return to child labor in agriculture; that laws are enacted that better protect children, that they are effectively enforced, and that comprehensive child protection systems are put in place where they do not exist.

About the ILO

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is dedicated to promoting social justice, internationally recognized human and labor rights. The only 'tripartite' agency of the UN, the ILO brings together governments, employers and workers from 187 member states to set labor standards, formulate policies and develop programs promoting decent work for all.

near UNICEF    
UNICEF works in some of the most difficult places to reach the most disadvantaged children and adolescents. In 190 countries and territories, we work for all children, everywhere, with the goal of building a better world for all.

For more information please contact :    

Luis Cordova, ILO Latin America and the Caribbean, cordova@ilo.org +51 989301246

Marisol Quintero, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean, mquintero@unicef.org + 507.6569-2718  

 
[1] The COVID-19 pandemic could increase child labor in Latin America and the Caribbean. Technical Note N ° 1

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