Published: June 2, 2020
As is the case in most crises, the most vulnerable in society will feel the worst impacts of COVID-19. Children, especially those from poor communities, are at particular risk of exploitation as parents fall deeper into poverty during the ensuing economic crisis and face appalling choices about how to sustain their families. Some may feel forced to send their children into the labor market while others seeking employment risk being trafficked for forced labor. COVID-19 may increase the risk of child labor in the following ways:
Schools are closing for indefinite periods of time
Freedom of movement is increasingly restricted
Relaxation of child labor regulation and enforcement
Increased competition for resources and diminished economic opportunities
Disease outbreaks leading to illness and death can disrupt family ties
Reduced government capacity to support vulnerable children
Although businesses must make hard financial and practical decisions during times of crisis, the moral and legal imperative to protect workers in company supply chains applies even more in these times of burgeoning vulnerability. Companies must identify risks, sustain commitments to human rights, and address the unique vulnerabilities of workers and children who are employed at the bottom of supply chains. Steps that companies should take to address the increased risk of child labor during the coronavirus crisis include:
Companies should conduct due diligence to ensure that pandemic response activities do not contribute to the exploitation of children.
Companies must assess where risks are highest in order to prioritize interventions.
Companies must ensure that supplier policies provide sufficient support to workers and their families at the commodity level.
Companies must provide increased support for small-scale producers.
Companies must involve at-risk youth in the identification of needs for support services.
Measures must be taken to ensure support for children left alone due to the hospitalization or death of a parent or caregiver
Through multi-stakeholder initiatives, companies can promote information sharing on support services available to children in sourcing countries.
Verité is an independent, non-profit, civil society organization. Since 1995, they have partnered with hundreds of corporations, governments, and NGOs to illuminate labor rights violations in supply chains and remedy them to the benefit of workers and companies alike. For more information, please visit: https://www.verite.org