In the World’s Poorest Countries, Slightly More Than 1 in 5 Children are Engaged in Child Labor

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“Anger is within each one of you, and if we are confined in the narrow shells of egos, and the circles of selfishness, then the anger will turn out to be hatred, violence, revenge, destruction. But if we can break the circles, then the same anger could turn into a great power. We can break the circles by using our inherent compassion and connect with the world, through compassion, to make this world better.”  Kailash Satyarthi

 By Maham Abbasi, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, USA: According to UNICEF, the latest global estimates indicate that the number of children in child labor has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years. 63 million girls and 97 million boys were in child labor globally at the beginning of 2020, accounting for almost 1 in 10 of all children worldwide. This is disturbing. The numbers are scary and we should be ashamed. Let’s admit that employing children at our homes or places of work in the name of allowing them to earn a living and sustain themselves is not as generous as we assume it to be. These children are looked down upon as nothing more than cheap labor; labor that doesn’t question them and is constantly at their service. We need to change this.

The report also warns us about the shocking fact that the global progress to end child labor has stalled for the first time in 20 years. The number of children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work – defined as work that is likely to harm their health, safety, or morals – has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016. In sub-Saharan Africa, population growth, extreme poverty, and inadequate social protection measures have led to an additional 16.6 million children in child labor over the past four years. In Egypt, 1.8 million children are working. Many are involved in dangerous jobs outlawed by international conventions, according to the International Labor Organization. Uttar Pradesh has the highest amount of child laborers, with over 20% of India’s child workers being residents in that state alone. (Save the Children, 2016)

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Economic shocks and school closures caused by COVID-19 highlight long working hours for children already in child labor and under worsening conditions, forced into the worst forms of labor due to income losses among exposed families. The report warns that globally 9 million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labor by the end of 2022 because of the pandemic. Child labor extends into many different activities such as agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and sadly, prostitution. Children are forced into child labor because of distinct factors; migration, emergencies, the lack of decent work available, and poverty which is known as the most influencing factor. (UNICEF, 2017)

The physical and mental harm that these children in child labor face are something we cannot ever take back from them. It is imperative to feel this. The issue of child labor is cultural and has prevented a lack of reporting, allowing it to continue over the years. Child labor compromises children’s education, restricts their rights, and limits future opportunities for them. It leads to vicious inter-generational cycles of poverty and child labor.

We must encourage states and business leads to create opportunities for decent work with fair wages that enable families to meet their needs without their children being forced to work. Quality education should be the foremost priority for every child and a health system easily accessible to all.

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If you’re still here, know that change begins with you. Be a conscientious consumer, know the laws, be observant and report cases of abuse. When you go out to shop for garments, confectionery, jewelry, or any other consumer product, ask your retailer, manufacturers, or shopkeeper if their brand is child-labor-free. They might not always have an answer but at least you’ve asked! This will make them think. Many might even be encouraged to investigate and ensure no child labor is involved in their business.

Volunteer at the nearest regional office of organizations working towards ending child labor and understand the issue in-depth. You will be appalled to know of the atrocities and the inhumane conditions these children experience. Bachpan Bachao Andolan is one of the pioneer grassroots movements, founded by Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. In its work of over 4 decades, it has rescued and rehabilitated over  1,02,3000 children working as forced laborers in industries as diverse as garment manufacturing, cosmetics, firecrackers, toy making, slaughterhouses, tea plantations, footwear automobiles, electronics, etc. Such organizations in India and in other parts of the world need your support.

Ensuring a child-labor-free community is on you.

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Curated by Maham Abbasi and Compiled By Humra Kidwai


Maham Abbasi

Maham Abbasi is currently pursuing Public Relations at the York University in Canada. She holds a Master's Degree in Women's Studies from the Aligarh Muslim University, India. Maham is a feminist at heart who revels in critiquing gendered societal constructs, she has been working on Period Poverty and Women's Health and Leadership through her projects, The No Shame and Aykaa Home Decor. She likes to wear different caps in her professional life and works extensively for women’s rights and issues.

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