06/11/2021, 10.02
LAOS - ASIA
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Vientiane, Covid-19 closes schools and feeds child labour

The UN report shows an increase in child labour on a global scale for the first time in 20 years. Progress in the fight has stalled due to the pandemic. 160 million children in the world are victims of exploitation. The example of Laos: education declines; child workers increase.

Vientiane (AsiaNews) - The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the poverty level of Laotian families and denied the right to education of a growing number of children, pushing them into the arms of those who exploit child labour. Most of them are employed in the fields and farmland by their parents and, in the worst cases, some of the little ones start working before they even go to elementary school.

Recent research relaunched by Radio Free Asia (RFA) shows that almost 30% of minors between the ages of five and 17 are dedicated to the most varied forms of work, while 25% cannot even complete the primary school cycle or secondary because they already have a full-time job.

Most of these live in agricultural areas, where over 80% of the total population is concentrated. Nine out of 10 children are employed in agriculture, fishing or forestry, while 70% work more than 49 hours a week.

Most of the children exploited in Laos come from communities belonging to ethnic minorities of Christian faith, sometimes subject to persecution by the communist authorities. A problem that does not concern only the small Asian nation, however, because in the whole continent and in the Pacific region there are at least 62 million victims of child labour, equal to the sum of the populations under 14 in the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.

Globally, the number of children involved in child labour has increased to 160 million, with an increase of 8.4 million children in the past four years.

According to a study prepared by experts from the UN agencies Unicef ​​and ILO (the International Labour Organization), millions more are at risk due to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy of their respective countries, and for increasingly family situations difficult.

The data are contained in the report entitled " Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward " published in recent days on the eve of the World Day against Child Labour, which is celebrated tomorrow 12 June.

The study shows that, for the first time in 20 years, progress in the fight against the phenomenon has entered a stalemate; moreover, the downward trend - between 2000 and 2016 there were fewer 94 million minor’s victims of child labour - seems to have stopped and is likely to increase in the immediate future.

The report shows a significant increase in the number of children between the ages of five and 11 who are victims of child labour, who now account for nearly half of the total. Meanwhile, the figure for minors between the ages of five and 17 employed in professions considered "risky" for physical and psychological health increased by 6.5 million, rising to 79 million compared to 2016 estimates.

The worsening is also evident in areas that, up to 2016, recorded situations of progressive improvement such as Asia (and Latin America), where the impact of the new coronavirus on children's schooling and early entry is more evident. in the labour market.

Globally, as a result of the pandemic, at least nine million children are at risk of being initiated into child labour by the end of 2002. Forecast models indicate that the number can rise to 46 million if adequate protection and prevention policies are not implemented.

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