Despite steady progress in the global fight against child labour, the magnitude and impact of child labour in countries affected by conflict and disaster is still overwhelming. In countries affected by armed conflict, child labour rates are 77 per cent higher than the global average, while the incidence of hazardous work is 50 per cent higher.3 Child labour and humanitarian crises are intimately connected. Fragile situations characterised by instability, income shocks, school closures, lack of decent work opportunities and disruption of social safety nets and services create the conditions for child labour. Conflict, disaster and displacement fuel new and existing risk factors and affect the ability of families and communities to protect children from child labour.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the world into a crisis of unprecedented scope and scale. The pandemic is expected to increase child labour risk factors for millions of children globally, as a result of school closures for 1.6 billion students and significant economic losses, which could push an additional 117 million children into poverty. Where child labour and humanitarian crises collide, children risk being denied their basic and fundamental rights to protection, health, education and development. Once in child labour, it can be extremely difficult to get children out of this situation. Child labour exposes children to life-threatening risk factors and harmful conditions, including injuries, health hazards, violence, abuse and exploitation. The physical, social and mental impact of child labour often lasts well into adulthood.
Child labour reinforces inter-generational cycles of poverty; undermines social and economic safety nets; and impedes progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The scale and severity of child labour call for urgent action by humanitarian actors to address the tolls that crises take on children and their families.