Crisis caused by COVID-19 could cause significant increase in child labor in Latin America and the Caribbean

11 de June de 2020

World Day Against Child Labor

The impacts of the pandemic could cause more than 300,000 children and adolescents to be forced to work, highlights an analysis by ECLAC and the ILO that considers it imperative to adopt measures to face this situation.

Lima / Santiago - The devastating impact of COVID-19 that generates a reduction in income and high levels of economic insecurity in families could generate a significant increase in the number of children and adolescents in child labor in Latin America and the Caribe, today alerted  an analysis by ECLAC and ILO   that considers it imperative to take measures to prevent this situation.

"The slowdown in production, unemployment, low coverage of social protection, lack of access to social security and higher levels of poverty are conditions that favor the increase in child labor," says a Technical Note from the two organizations. published in the framework of the commemoration of  the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12 .

"Indicators of child labor and hazardous adolescent work could increase significantly if measures and strategies are not implemented to reduce the impact," the document adds.

An analysis that initially covered three countries (Mexico, Peru and Costa Rica), based on the results of the Child Labor Risk Identification Model (MIRTI), developed by ECLAC and ILO, allows estimating that child labor could increase between 1 and 3 percentage points in the region.

According to the analysis, "this would imply that at least between 109,000 and 326,000 children and adolescents could enter the labor market, adding to the 10.5 million who are already in child labor today."

The document recalls that the percentage of boys, girls and adolescents between 5 and 17 years of age in child labor in Latin America and the Caribbean fell from 10.8% in 2008 to 7.3% in 2016, which is equivalent to a decrease of 3.7 million people in that situation, up to the current indicator of 10.5 million.

The Technical Note of ECLAC and ILO says that "the increase in unemployment and poverty will severely affect the well-being of families, particularly those in conditions of extreme poverty who tend to live in inadequate housing."

Furthermore, “one of the main factors of insecurity and economic instability in households is that the head of the household works in informal conditions, where social protection is minimal and labor contracts are non-existent, so child labor it becomes an important component of how households deal with economic insecurity ”.

On the other hand, it warns that the temporary closure of schools is another factor that has the potential to increase child labor.

“Now more than ever, children and adolescents must be at the center of action priorities that, together and through tripartite social dialogue, offer responses to consolidate progress in reducing child labor, especially in its worst forms. ”, Highlights the analysis

It argues that at a time of reduction in the fiscal space of the states, the prevention approach continues to be the most cost-efficient. Once the child is in a situation of child labor, it is much more complex and costly to withdraw them from the activity or intervene to restore their rights.

The Technical Note proposes actions for:
- Effective prevention
- Identification and location of working children and adolescents
- Restitution of the rights of working children and adolescents and their families

The analysis also proposes the establishment of transfers, in line with ECLAC's proposal to implement an emergency basic income for six months for all people living in poverty in 2020, including children and adolescents.

The data from the countries indicate that in a large part of Latin America and the Caribbean coronavirus cases continue to rise, and therefore the measures to contain the pandemic recommended by PAHO / WHO in terms of public health, such as hand washing, respiratory etiquette, social distancing, avoiding interpersonal contact, and staying home.

The ILO and ECLAC, together with other organizations, collaborate with the  Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labor   in order to generate knowledge to inform and provide evidence that contributes to policy decision-making aimed at prevention and sustained eradication of child labor in the region.

Source: ILO Americas

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