The Covid-19 pandemic and corresponding economic upheaval and in-depth reporting from the Associated Press show that the coronavirus crisis is also undermining two decades of gains against child labor in the developing world, where an entire generation of impoverished children lacking access to safe education opportunities are being driven by economic necessity to work alongside their parents or in place of unemployed caretakers.
"With classrooms shuttered and parents losing their jobs, children are trading their ABC's for the D of drudgery," wrote María Verza, Carlos Valdez, and William Costa in AP. "Reading, writing, and times tables are giving way to sweat, blisters, and fading hopes for a better life."
Author and commentator Nathan Robinson said that the dire situation demonstrates the depravity of the global economic system and its inability to guarantee the well-being of all the world's inhabitants despite there being more than enough resources to do so. "Capitalism is monstrous," he said.
Robinson also noted that it's a "good time to remember that a number of free market economists defend child labor as being a good thing because it's 'freely chosen' and work is good, so prohibiting it would be 'coercive.' " , Robinson cited multiple examples of economists defending the alleged virtues of child labor, which Jeffrey Tucker of the right-wing think tank American Institute for Economic Research for instance described as an "opportunity taken away from kids" by compulsory schooling.
Instead of going to school Children in Kenya are grinding rocks in quarries. Tens of thousands of children in India have poured into farm fields and factories. Across Latin America, kids are making bricks, building furniture, and clearing brush.
"These children and adolescents," AP noted, "are earning pennies or at best a few dollars a day to help put food on the table"—putting in long hours at jobs that used to be after-school activities but have in recent months been transformed into full-time work.
Astrid Hollander, UNICEF's head of education in Mexico explained that "child labor becomes a survival mechanism for many families."
"We have seen new children and adolescents selling in the street," Patricia Velasco, manager of a city program for at-risk people in La Paz, Bolivia, told AP. "They've been pushed to generate income."