With more than nine months into the global pandemic, the situation can somewhat be compared to a slow descent into madness. The people all over the world are desperately waiting for the vaccine to come to the rescue, but there hadn’t been much progress for the same. Where the nations are busy tackling the situations already risen due to the novel coronavirus which includes the downfall of economy and unemployment, looks like India along with other developing countries have the increase in child labour on its charts!
The reports stated that child labour had gone down by 20% in the past two decades but looks like it is not going to stay the same for a much longer period. When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in December 2019 nobody knew this is what the future held for them. But this situation has surely been harder on the people who are not much privileged and fell below the poverty line.
According to the reports of ILO, about 60 million people could fall into poverty in India alone where these families are forced to send their children to work so that they can feed more mouths. The uneducated population of India along with the pandemic proved to be a deadly combination for the poor children who had the right to education but are forced to work to support their families.
The calculations are done under with every one percent rise in poverty; a rise of 0.7% is seen in child labour.
The children are pushed not only into child labour but trafficking, begging, and also prostitution in severe cases. According to a recent study conducted by the DHL international in 2018 stated that almost 56 million students were out of schools in India and were working to earn money. These digits are twice as much the combined figures of Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. You can already see the worst is yet to come! The problem of child labour already prevailed, but the pandemic only added fuel to the fire and nothing else. The cost to India’s economy was projected at $6.9 billion or to say 0.3% of the gross domestic product in terms of lost productivity. According to the international labour organization or the ILO, 10.1 million children in India are working as either main workers or marginal workers. These are just the numbers that are counted; the other figures are still concealed.
The Indian government has a beautiful fundamental right that states that there is a right to education to each child between the ages of 6 and 14, but you would be in tough luck if you pass 14 years, because the government has no provisions for the children 15 years and above. You are on your own. Then you engage in child labour, trafficking that is none of their concern.
Ramya subhramaniam, the chief of research on child rights and protection stated at Unicef-Innocenti in Florence, Italy, that the number of children engaged in illiteracy and labour was high way before the pandemic started. He further said that there would be a bigger issue to face if these children will not get enrolled, the numbers will push high on the students which are never enrolled in the school which in turn will aggravate the numbers in child labour. Many children are engaged in household labour which may be difficult to tell the exact numbers, which is still against the law.
Small scale industries like matchbox making, household cleaning can be set up in houses and are hazardous, which may leave children open to exploitation.
The situation is so worse in India that the people have bonded themselves as the measure to repay their loans as the pandemic began enforcing total lockdown in the nation. About 591 children were rescued from forced work and bondage labour during the lockdown by bachpan Bachao Andolan founded by Kailash satyarthi.
This is not an undeniable fact that once when the lockdown is lifted completely, the factories will look for more and more labour to incur back the losses that they have faced. This will become even more difficult and rather an inevitable situation for the poor children who just want some money in place of their work just for a bag of rice sometimes.
The problem of child is not only faced by India but some of the other countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, and many more. Indonesia, which is the fourth most populous country, would see a sharp rise in children from vulnerable families dropping out of school and engaging in work to feed their families. The global count for vulnerable children pushed into working is 152 million out of which 72 million alone are engaged in hazardous work. In the spirit of protection of children from child labour, UNICEF has decided to organize a virtual march against child labour and international partnership of cooperation on child labour in agriculture.
This is the time now, more than ever, to make child labour an important issue. To the rise in other issues, the government is most likely to weaken law enforcement for child labour which will give the parents and families sneak off their children to drop school and engage in work. Due to reverse migration during lockdown, many children have returned to their native states which makes them more prone to trafficking and being forced into hazardous work. The whole responsibility lies upon our shoulders to ensure that the children are not exploited and thrown into working rather than gaining an education. UNICEF, along with the governments of different nations, has diverted their special attention towards child labour and to prevent it from happening. Without immediate action COVID-19 can destroy more than just health and lives, it can wipe out our entire generation as the situation is quite fragile and with the future of the country being invoked into child labour, the COVID-19 pandemic could destroy the progress made in 20 years with just a click of a finger.