The number of children being put to work has risen to 160 million worldwide — first increase in two decades — and the Covid-19 pandemic puts millions of others at risk, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation and UNICEF.
The report warns that 8.9 million more children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 because of rising poverty due to Covid-19. It said a simulation model showed that the number could rise to 46 million if they don’t have access to critical social protection coverage.
The report also said that children already in child labour may be working longer hours or working under worse conditions with schools closed due to the pandemic.
UNICEF India representative Dr Yasmin Ali Haque said the pandemic has emerged as a child rights crisis that has aggravated the risk of child labour. She also said that children have lost parents and caregivers to the virus, and they are extremely vulnerable to neglect, abuse and exploitation, according to news agency PTI.
In India, at least 26,176 children have lost a parent, 3,621 have been orphaned and 274 have been abandoned, according to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights data.
Meanwhile, president Joe Biden has said that a US donation of 500 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to the rest of the world comes with “no strings attached”. Boris Johnson has said the UK will donate 100 million surplus vaccine doses to the world within the next year.