Studies, Reviews and Research

Impact of COVID-19 on Child Labour in South Asia

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K4D, Knowledge, Evidence, and Learning for Development

This helpdesk report examines the impacts of Covid-19 on child labour in South Asia. South Asia already has among the highest prevalence of child labour in the world, with an estimated 16.7 million (5-17 year-old) children engaged in child labour in South Asia. While the full scale of the COVID-19 crisis in South Asia is still emerging, it is clear that the pandemic is having a significant negative impact on the region’s economies. The experience of previous epidemics/financial crises suggests that the Coronavirus pandemic will lead to a rise in child labour. The (potential) pathways in which the current COVID-19 pandemic could lead to increased enslavement and child labour in the developing world, including in South Asia are: loss of livelihoods and economic opportunities; employers have stronger incentives and perhaps greater latitude for exploitation; greater discrimination against minorities and migrants could facilitate exploitation; anti-slavery organisations and activities have been disrupted and school closures and heightened financial pressures on families could fuel child labour as well as child marriage. However, some literature also highlights certain specific likely impacts of the crisis on child labour in India and Bangladesh.

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