World Day Against Child Labour: Protecting forcibly displaced and host community children

On 12 June 2020, the PROSPECTS programme joins the rest of world in marking the World Day Against Child Labour. Tackling child labour among forcibly displaced or host populations is critical in ensuring all children are protected from exploitation and abuse, have access to education and can aspire to a fulfilled, safe and happy childhood among their families, peers and communities.

Widespread child labour continues to be one of the most prevalent and persistent forms of violence and exploitation facing refugee children. Society’s most vulnerable members, children, are particularly affected by forced displacement and resulting socioeconomic vulnerabilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse, presenting unprecedented risks to the rights and safety and development of refugee children and their peers in vulnerable host communities. In light of this global health crisis, the World Day Against Child Labour 2020 calls upon countries and organizations to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable during crisis management and recovery.

The global economic and social crisis following in the wake of the pandemic are having a disastrous impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. For many children and their families, the fast-evolving situation means disrupted education, family illness and potential loss of household income.

Poverty is forcing many vulnerable families to rely on their children to contribute to their livelihood. They are drawn into the worst forms of child labour and face serious and worrying exploitation, abuse and violation of their rights. These forms include the kinds of hazardous work found in agriculture, services, and industry, as well as the multiple dangers associated with working on the streets. Being able to access education and protection services is key in addressing child labour, as is access to decent work and skills training for older members of the family and community. Policies facilitating access to decent work will help families meet basic needs and decrease their dependence on child labour as a coping strategy.

The elimination of the endemic use of child labour requires both economic and social reform as well as the active cooperation of all development actors, of governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations, enterprises, international organizations, and civil society.

Central to efforts to address the issue is enabling refugees and host communities to overcome their specific vulnerabilities, strengthening socio-economic inclusion and local economic development and improving access to vital public services, including education, training, health and social protection.

Addressing this global scourge also requires strong partnerships at global, regional, national and community level. In the PROSPECTS Partnership, technical support is being provided to host central and local governments to review legal and policy frameworks and child protection mechanisms to ensure that refugees, particularly children, are adequately protected. Similarly, the partners are supporting access to decent work opportunities for refugees and host communities that will ensure that living and working conditions can be improved to strengthen resilience and enhance protection.

Workers and employers and their organizations play a key role in preventing child labour by addressing the health risks at work and the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social dialogue has proven to be absolutely crucial for a balanced crisis management and response, ensuring protection of workers’ rights, the rights of children as well as business continuity. As long as refugee and vulnerable host community households are not able to generate income, rates of child labour are likely to continue to increase and may become entrenched even in the recovery period.