“The health crisis has had a significant impact”

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In a tea field in northern Rwanda in November 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the enormous progress made since the early 2000s to stop child labor, especially in Africa. The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) believe that the consequences of the health crisis are likely to ” to push ” Again “9 million children must work by the end of 2022” in the world.

In sub-Saharan Africa, population growth, more economic and security crises, extreme poverty and inadequate social protection have already resulted in 16.6 million extra children being forced into child labor since 2016, according to figures. The United Nations.

Hani Mansourian, coordinator of the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (Alliance CPHA) on behalf of Unicef, points to the challenges of curbing this scourge, which deprives African children of their future.

Why is child labor increasing in Africa while declining in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East?

Hani Mansourian The first reason seems to be population growth, which continues to accelerate on the continent. Many governments do not have the resources to guarantee families adequate social protection to prevent child labor. Access to education is a problem, although it is an effective preventive factor. On the African continent, one in four children aged 5 to 11 is without school. Among the oldest, it is every third child. However, there is a direct reciprocal link between dropping out of school and working among children. The health crisis has had a significant impact on this phenomenon.

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We predicted this already in 2020 and fought for school closures to be taken more seriously. In Kenya, where I live, schools have been closed for nine months! This decision was based on public health considerations but did not necessarily take into account other consequences. Many children dropped out and never returned to school. The Covid-19 epidemic has also increased poverty, especially among the most vulnerable, who have ended up losing their jobs or their sources of income, especially due to the closure of markets.

How does child labor occur and which sectors are most affected?

In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture, and subsistence agriculture in particular, accounts for 82% of child labor, compared with 71% globally. The agricultural sector itself is not considered dangerous, but the constraints associated with it (schooling, poor working conditions, etc.) categorize it as such.

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About 57% of working children in sub-Saharan Africa are boys, but we know that girls are more likely to be victims of sexual exploitation or even slavery: traffickers cheaply tear them from their communities and take them across borders.

What are the long-term economic and social consequences of this phenomenon?

Child labor is closely linked to poverty. By working to help meet the needs of the family, a child is more likely to drop out of school and never find a well-paid job in the future. It is all the more difficult to break this cycle, as an adult who has worked even in childhood will be more likely to downplay this situation. The more widespread child labor is, the more it becomes a social norm.

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This is true within families, but also within societies: societies are less likely to fight against this phenomenon, and governments to impose rules. If states try to legislate, they must confront employers who benefit from the lower cost of child labor and have become accustomed to it. In addition, when it comes to an agricultural environment within the family, the children work for free.

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