Child labour affects around 160 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 worldwide, according to a Christian organization, and that number could be on the rise.

World Vision underlined this reality on the occasion of World Day against Child Labour, on June 12.

8.9 million more children could be added by 2022, says the NGO, as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and if mitigation strategies are not put in place. The need for urgent income prevents children from accessing education and gaining opportunities to break the cycle of poverty in their families.

“Child labour is a serious violation of children’s rights. During the Covid-19 crisis we have seen an alarming increase in child labour as families struggle to make ends meet”, says Charo Izquierdo, World Vision’s programme and advocacy coordinator in Spain. “The situation experienced by millions of families has been desperate and has forced them to make decisions that have dire consequences for children.”

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70% of child labourers in agriculture

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), around 70% of children who work do so in agriculture. Some 79 million children work in dangerous conditions and situations that pose a serious risk to their health, such as carrying heavy loads in construction or digging in mines.

In addition, the World Vision reports cases of domestic service or forced labour, such as child soldiers or children exploited in human trafficking and the sex trade. “We have a big challenge ahead of us that needs funding and support from all actors involved, international agencies, governments, businesses and society. Supporting the livelihoods of families is fundamental to breaking cycles of poverty and protecting children’s rights,” Izquierdo said.

Wakeel and Pinky

Wakeel is one of the names that stands out among the child labour figures. The 10-year-old Afghan boy works as a shoeshine boy, walking the streets of his city for eleven hours a day to generate income for his family. In Afghanistan, World Vision says, half of the families have sent their children to work in the past year. Until the fall of the government to the Taliban, some 60,000 children were working in the capital, Kabul. The organization claims that this figure has tripled with the change in government.

The pandemic has resulted in 28 per cent of households in Cambodia being affected by child labour, and in Bangladesh, it is as high as 34 per cent. There, 10-year-old Pinky has had to drop out of school to work in factories. “There is no excuse for this to happen in the 21st century. With urgent action, based on raising awareness of children’s rights, encouraging school enrolment and helping families improve their incomes, and by partnering with governments and businesses to prevent child labour, we can still meet our global commitment to end child labour by 2025,” adds Izquierdo.


This story originally appeared at Evangelical Focus and is republished here with permission.