The pandemic has pushed untold numbers of children out of classrooms and into work at brick kilns, carpet factories, gold mines, and stone quarries.
While many children felt they had little choice but to support their families, the rise in child labor could have been avoided with targeted assistance, Human Rights Watch reports.
Its new report, co-published the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights in Uganda and Friends of the Nation in Ghana, features interviews with 81 children ages 8-17 who described:
- Long hours: More than a third worked at least 10 hours a day; some 7 days a week
- Little pay: Most were paid very little, if at all
- Hazardous conditions, including handling toxic mercury to extract gold from ore and using machete-like tools to clear fields, according to The Guardian
Children were pressed into jobs after their parents lost their jobs or died. Dwindling labor inspections during the pandemic likely emboldened unethical employers.
Solutions include: Prioritization of cash allowances to families and national back-to-school campaigns to ensure that children return to the classroom once schools reopen.
The Quote: “I started working because we were so badly off,” a 13-year-old Ugandan girl said. “The hunger at home was too much for us to sit and wait.”