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UN: Pandemic may push millions into child labour

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A boy carries recyclables at a dumpsite in Choeung Ek commune, in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district last month. UN agencies have warned that the pandemic can push many without proper support into child labour. Hong Menea

UN: Pandemic may push millions into child labour

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF have warned that millions of children are at risk of being pushed into child labour due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a press release published on June 12, they said the situation could create the first increase in child labour in 20 years. Victims of child labour have decreased by 94 million since 2000, they said.

Some studies have indicated that a one per cent increase in poverty results in at least a 0.7 per cent rise in child labour in certain countries.

As the virus decimates family incomes, many without proper support could resort to child labour.

ILO director-general Guy Ryder said: “Social protection is vital in times of crisis as it provides assistance to those who are most vulnerable.

“Integrating child labour concerns across broader policies for education, social protection, justice, labour markets, and international human and labour rights makes a critical difference.”

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training’s General Department of Technical Affairs director-general and spokesman Touch Channy told The Post on Sunday that the government has invested in children by transferring cash to poor pregnant women and children under the age of two. The initiative has been implemented for about a year.

On June 1, the non-profit organisation Save the Children and UNICEF warned that if urgent action was not taken, poor children in low- and middle-income countries could rise by 15 per cent to more than 672 million by the end of this year.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Cambodia’ government has scaled up its social protection programme, according to a press release published by the two organisations on June 1.

A new Covid-19 cash transfer programme for households identified as poor is designed to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable groups of the population, including the needs of children zero-to-five years old, people with disabilities, the elderly and people living with HIV/AIDS, the organisations said.

“The programme is a top-up of the existing cash transfer programme for poor pregnant women and children [zero-to-two years old] and the scholarship programme for children in primary and secondary schools,” they said.

As of June 1, the Ministry of Planning identified a total of 567,505 poor families in rural areas, equivalent to approximately 2.3 million people, during the spread of Covid-19, the ministry said in a Facebook post on June 12.

The ministry urged all poor Cambodians who have not yet been identified by the programme to meet with local authorities for an interview before the campaign for identifying poor families in urban areas ends later this month.

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