The children’s organization says that conditions of children engaged in child labour has worsened since the start of the global pandemic
As countries mark the World Day Against Child Labour, child-focused organization Educo warns that the economic crisis brought about by the coronavirus will create a spike in the incidence of child labor cases in Bangladesh.
According to Abdul Hamid, Country Director of Educo Bangladesh:
“Many families have suffered a significant financial loss due to COVID-19, either because the adults have lost income or because they can’t go to work because of the nationwide lockdown. What we need to understand is that most of these families are already living on subsistence wages even before the lockdown, living from hand to mouth.”
“With the easing of the lockdown, many vulnerable children have been desperate to return to work to bring food to the table despite the threat of contracting coronavirus. Many have also started working in service industries, domestic work, and in small manufacturing. We are also extremely concerned with children who had not worked before but are now forced to earn for their family.”, Hamid furthers.
Educo also expressed alarm that the COVID-19 crisis could hamper the country’s plan to elimínate various forms child labor within 2025, particularly child labor involving hazardous work, as part of Bangladesh’s commitment to attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Hamid says: “With the economic cost of this crisis, we fear that thousands of children will not be able to go back to school even when the situation returns to normal and schools are open again, because families will need this extra income to survive.”
Similarly, the NGO warns that the conditions of the children involved in child labour have gotten worse over the last few months because of coronavirus. “They are very exposed to infection. In most cases, they are unable to comply with security measures like social distancing, and they often live in cramped spaces or do not have access to disinfectant or masks to protect themselves, explains Hamid.
According to the International Labour Organization, there are more than 150 million child labourers globally. Of these, 73 million carry out dangerous jobs, like for example those who have to manipulate inflammable material or carry heavy weights, among others. A 2019 report carried out by Educo highlighted that there around 3.5 million children are engaged in child labor in Bangladesh, with about 2.8 million of the total child labor force involved in hazardous work.
Currently, Educo Bangladesh is running an anti-child labor project ODHIKAR (Options for Dignity of Human Being by Influencing Key Actors to Reform), to help improve children’s living conditions and give them the opportunity to go back to school. Educo Bangladesh raises following action points to help ensure the future of the most vulnerable children:
• Government must take initiative to cover all children engaged in child labour and their family under social safety net scheme, even those who are not permanent residents in the area
• Government should take initiative to revise National Plan of Action on child labour and implement that accordingly.
• To protect child labour in this pandemic situation, Government can provide financial support to the child labour from Workers’ Welfare Fund under Ministry of Labour and Employment.
• Government and civil society organization should work together with additional efforts to prevent and eliminate existing and potential child labour in the upcoming days
Laurence Cambianica, Global Child Protection Advisor at Educo: “It is very important that the families are aware of the risk which these children are exposed to when they work, especially now, when we are experiencing a global pandemic. But it is also important to work with the governments in the countries we develop our projects in to increase the social protection of this collective and improve their access to education, despite the closure of many schools due to coronavirus, through programmes adapted to their needs”