Child Labor & COVID-19

August 26, 2020

Since March 2020, schools, colleges, and other educational institutions remain closed. Childcare programs such as day care centers and children’s homes too are suspended. For millions of children in India, these institutions and programs are a lifeline; mitigating challenges such as malnourishment, providing safety and protection from social and economic injustice, and ensuring education and development. With the lockdown, the pandemic has not only become a health challenge, but a challenge for the development and growth of India’s most vulnerable population. Recent setbacks with regard to increasing violence and abuse against children are alarming.

Livemint reports on ILO and UNICEF, noting “the last two decades have seen significant strides in the fight against child labor. But the COVID-19 pandemic poses very real risks of backtracking. Positive trends may fall flat, and child labor may worsen, especially in places where it has remained resistant to change. These risks require urgent action to prevent and mitigate the tolls the pandemic takes on children and their families.” Statistics now show that the pandemic is leading to the first rise in child labor following 20 straight years of progress. The Swaddle reports that gender inequalities will now be aggravated with young girls being pushed into exploitation in agriculture and domestic work. An analysis that was reported by News 18 predicts “the rise in child labor will be especially apparent in home-based enterprises and agriculture, besides hazardous occupations” according to Devrupa Rakshit, writer at The Swaddle. In fact, there are already reports of children being forced to take up selling vegetables to support their families because the lockdown has resulted in the loss of their parents’ income. Puja Marwaha, CEO at CRY, expressed concerns about a potential increase in forced labor and debt bondage due to the economic crisis. The New Indian Express reports: “The advent of Covid19 seems to be one major contributing factor to undo all efforts made in reducing and ending child labor.” When children decide to, or are forced to earn an income instead of attending school, a challenge develops to enroll children back into school.

Eric Edmonds and Jacobus de Hoop, developmental economist and humanitarian policy research manager at UNICEF respectively, cautioned that “As a result of being forced into child labor, the children will be more prone to mental health concerns like stress and trauma, and may also develop chronic health issues later in life. The spike could also lead to reduced labor earnings all the way into adulthood as children who leave school early are likely to enter low-skill occupations. And with some states in India even relaxing their labor laws in favor of a speedier economic recovery, the likelihood of these health concerns manifesting in the lives of these children is even higher.” Guy Ryder, who is a political scientist and Director-General at ILO states that social protection is crucial, especially for children in India.

Love One More, once again, has risen to this challenge in a significant manner. With our network of childcare workers on the ground, 95% of the children within our programs (children’s homes, rural childcare centers, and schools) are regularly followed up to ensure their well-being and safety. Thankfully we have not received any reports of any of our children being affected by COVID-19.

Furthermore, to engage children in learning and aid their ongoing holistic development, Love One More developed a 31-day child activity module. It is now available in 3 languages. Childcare workers on the front lines receive online training on use of the module and how to guide children in following activities by phone. When possible, they safely make personal visits to the home of the child to interact with and encourage the child and the family. Parents and adults are encouraged to participate and help children with the activities. In doing so, adults are learning parenting skills to better care for and nurture their children.  Moreover, this initiative has helped ensure the social safety and protection of children in our programs.

Close to 2,000 children in 5 states across the country are following this module and are regularly followed up with. This module has bridged the learning gap for children in rural areas who otherwise were left without the opportunity to go to school or participate in online educational programs as children in urban areas.

You have an opportunity to make an impact on a child in India. Our children in crisis campaign helps the children and families in our care who are affected by COVID-19, the lockdown, and the Indian economy. To donate any amount to help the children in crisis, click here.

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