Need immediate collective efforts to eliminate child labour: CRY
Before the pandemic, many NGOs strived hard to put poor children in school and provide them with basic education so that they be included and given fair opportunities like their privileged counterparts.
However, once the pandemic struck, children began to lose their safe spaces at school, and many employers are now on the search for child labour. Not only are they unsafe, but they are also considered to be a “cheaper” form of labour and face the risk of being spotted by employers.
On World Day Against Child Labour, Child Rights and You (CRY), an NGO that believes in every child’s right to a childhood, shares how the pandemic has impacted children, making them more prone to child labour and reversing the efforts of many children-oriented NGOs.
“Amid the pandemic, scores of children may have been pushed into child labour due to massive loss of livelihood, as there’s a dire need of extra pairs of hands at many families. With almost no incomes in the pandemic, if the choice is between feeding empty stomachs and paying off school fees for adolescent children – it’s anybody’s guess what the struggling families will go for,” Puja Marwaha, CEO of CRY, shared.
The Right to Education (RTE) Act guarantees education only till a child reaches the age of 14. This puts adolescent children above the age of 14 years and those continuing education beyond the 8th standard at a bigger risk of being deprived of education.
Moreover, the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (CALPRA) makes it worse, as it allows children within 15 to 18 years to be engaged in labour as long as it is outside the list of ‘hazardous occupations and processes’– thus pushing children away from the promise of universal education up to the age of 18 years, as mentioned in the National Education Policy (NEP).
The latest report on the global estimates 2020 by ILO and UNICEF stated that, globally, a significant number of children in child labour are out of school, and across the countries in Central and Southern Asia, more than one-third (35.3 percent) of children between 5–14 years in child labour are not attending schools.
According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS 2017-18), about 6 percent of children in the age group of 5–14 years were out of school, and a considerable number of them were engaged in work.
Further commenting on these retrogressive trends, Puja said, “Over the past couple of decades, it had been a hard battle to ensure that our children are in schools and thus well-protected from being pushed into child labour – it had taken huge efforts, resources, finances as well as changing community outlooks – and we have reasons to be worried that much of the success can go to waste.”
The report by ILO and UNICEF also states that “The COVID-19 crisis threatens to further erode global progress against child labour unless urgent mitigation measures are taken. New analysis suggests a further 8.9 million children will be in child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of rising poverty driven by the pandemic.”
“We need a robust child protection and social security system which has got seriously impacted due to COVID-19 pushing children into labour. Stringent enforcement of the child labour law, the Integrated Child Protection Services Scheme is critical to safeguard children from the impact of the COVID-19, including the fallouts of the economic slowdown,” Puja said.