Want to end child labor in the world? Build social protection nets for the most vulnerable in low-income countries, especially women and children. At least, this is the call from Nobel peace laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. Speaking at an online event with other child rights advocates, there was a resounding agreement for the need to provide financial support to the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made people vulnerable all around the world which is why some countries have allocated special funds to help cushion their populations from pandemic related economic shocks. Unfortunately, most low-income countries have been unable to provide the same support to their already vulnerable populations.
The United Nations and International Labour Organization (ILO) this year published a report revealing an increase in child labor for the first time in 20 years. The report warned that, due to the pandemic alone, without mitigation measures, 9 million additional children could be pushed into child labor.
Satyarthi argues that it is possible to tackle this particular vulnerability with financial support. He stated that, “This is possible by providing social protection to all children in low-income countries who have been made to become more vulnerable to child labour, trafficking and slavery.” Satyarthi and his organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement), have freed over 90,000 Indian children from forced labor and trafficking.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports,
While the United Nations says the number of child labourers has increased to 160 million from 152 million in 2016, the world has at the same time become $10 trillion richer, according to the child rights initiative, set up by Satyarthi in 2016.
Backers of the global social protection fund say it can be funded by a combination of existing aid assistance from rich nations, increased taxation of firms and contributions from existing funds, along with debt relief or cancellation.
Satyarthi said that $52 billion could provide some social protection measures to every child and pregnant woman in low-income countries – a tiny percentage of what Europe spends each year on such programmes for its own population.
On the call, ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, said, “Let’s place social protection at the [center] of our strategies and truly attack these root causes of child [labor].”
Freedom United has been calling for living wages to help stem the tide of child forced labor in the cocoa industry, recognizing that one of the root causes of the problem, which is entirely avoidable with intervention, is indeed poverty. If the international community is serious about ending child forced labor, a global fund to support the most vulnerable in low-income countries would be a promising start.