A joint report by the International Labor Organization and U.N. Children’s Fund warns that millions of children are likely to be pushed into forced labor because of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The two agencies launched a report, titled, “COVID-19 and Child Labor: A Time of Crisis” to mark World Day Against Child Labor, June 12.

Authors of the report warn the global pandemic is likely to reverse decades of steady progress made in reducing the number of child laborers. Over the past 20 years, the International Labor Organization said, child labor has decreased by 94 million.

The latest figures put the number of child laborers globally at 152 million, nearly half of them in what is called hazardous child labor. Those jobs are particularly dangerous and hazardous to the physical and mental well-being of children. They include work in the agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, and domestic sectors.

The report warns that millions of children are likely to be forced into the worst forms of labor as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the economy and families have no means of support. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Closed schools a factor

The senior researcher and ILO lead author of the report, Lorenzo Guarcello, told VOA evidence is growing that child labor is rising as schools close during the pandemic. He said many children who do not go to school are likely to be forced into exploitative and hazardous jobs.

“Families are sending children to sell in the streets some food, flowers,” he said. “So, already, they are starting to work. They are much more exposed to work in hazardous conditions because of the increase, the likely increase and involvement in the informal sector.”