LN – Child labor and pandemic: concern about impact on adolescents

It is estimated that 30% of adolescents in urban sectors do some type of work; on World Day against Child Labor, specialists warn about how the crisis caused by the pandemic could impact boys and girls from the lower and middle classes Credit: Shutterstock

Marcelo is 15 years old and lives in Lomas del Mirador. Before the pandemic and despite being a minor, I already worked:

pizza and empanadas deliverys

with his bicycle. Since the

mandatory isolation

He added responsibilities and his school continuity is hanging by a thread. When her mom goes to work, she has to take care of her two little brothers. She doesn't have time to do homework or be with her friends. At

World Day Against Child Labor

specialists warn that, in Argentina, the increase in urban adolescent work may be one of the main consequences of the crisis due to the health emergency.

Thousands of boys and girls carry out activities such as cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking, taking care of siblings and shopping, gathering water or looking for firewood every day in their homes; or who work as an employee or apprentice in different areas. From the

National Commission for the Eradication of Child Labor

(Conaeti), warn that this practice not only did not decrease in quarantine (for focusing, in many cases, on essential items such as the food industry), but also runs the risk of becoming worse due to the economic impact.

In 2019, 14.7% of children and adolescents between 5 and 17 years of age living in urban areas,

they did intensive housework

or economic activities. But if you put

the magnifying glass on teenagers

, the percentage of those with some type of work climbs to 28.7% (while for boys and girls it is 8.3%). In all cases, basic rights are violated, such as studying, resting properly or playing; and in many, their health is put at risk. The numbers come from the report “Living conditions of prepaiddemic childhoods Covid-19. Evolution of deprivation of rights 2010-2019”, which the

Argentina Social Debt Observatory

(ODSA) of the UCA to which LA NACION agreed exclusively.

Ianina Tuñón, researcher in charge of the ODSA, maintains that a phenomenon that occurred a year ago and that it is “highly probable” that in this context


It is “the incorporation of children from the middle sectors who, during the crisis in the previous government, joined the world of work, helping their parents in businesses or family businesses.” That increase could occur, according to the specialist, more likely than in the most marginalized sectors.

As he details, they are boys from the middle sectors who generally enter and leave the labor market, who are highly mobile. However, statistics show that many, in times of crisis, enter jobs with their own parents as secondary labor.

It is very likely that, due to the current crisis, more boys from the middle sectors will start working

Ianina Tuñón, ODSA

This is shown by the figures of the evolution of the last years. While in 2017, 10.4% of middle-class boys, girls and adolescents worked; in 2018, the percentage rose to 18.5% and last year it fell to 13.4%. “It is probable that we will see this phenomenon of increase again. The middle sectors are going to have to go out to defend what they have and they will probably do so with the secondary hand of their own homes, such as that of children and women,” says Tuñón.

Child labor has a high social tolerance. It is naturalized and invisible

Gustavo Ponce, ILO

On the other hand, Gustavo Ponce, a specialist in child and forced labor of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Argentina, alerts about how, in general,

child labor “has a very high social tolerance”

. And it exemplifies: “If you have a person working in the field and his son is on top of the tractor, he will tell you that he is not working, but is collaborating with the home, the same if the eldest of his daughters prepares all days the food to the brothers.

It is naturalized, invisible

. That worries us because you cannot change something that is not seen as a problem. ”

Linked to these positive evaluations, she emphasizes that there are myths such as the belief that child labor keeps children away from drugs and instills a culture of responsibility. “The evidence shows just the opposite. The boys who enter the labor market early what they have is a

great difficulty in their school career, a negative impact on their health and other rights

“summarizes Ponce.

Non stop

Under the campaign

“The world stopped, child and adolescent labor did not”

, Conaeti seeks to make visible a reality that failed to stop even the pandemic. Martín De Nicola, coordinator of this organization, explains that they consider child labor to be that which involves boys and girls between 5 and 15 years old, while between 16 and 17 it is adolescent work, allowed by Argentine legislation as long as it is with conditions of protection that in many cases are not respected.

In this sense, the Ministries of Social Development of the Nation and Labor together with the Senaf and the main labor confederations of the country signed yesterday afternoon

a commitment act

which seeks to promote the eradication of child labor and the protection of adolescent work, especially “thinking of mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on the working family.”

De Nicola does not doubt about the possible impact that the crisis will have on the most vulnerable sectors regarding unprotected child and adolescent labor. “Both are closely linked to the conditions of vulnerability and the context of the coronavirus generates more vulnerability,” he stresses.

What must be taken into account, among other issues, is the psychological burden, the responsibility assigned to these boys and girls who due to their age cannot process

Martín De Nicola, Conaeti

On the other hand, consider that

intensive housework

they are among the most invisible. “What has to be taken into account, among other issues, is the psychological burden, the responsibility assigned to these boys and girls that due to their age they cannot process,” says the person in charge of Conaeti. And he clarifies: “We are not talking about children who help to set the table before dinner, but, for example, they cook every day for the grandfather or his little brothers and that it is up to them that the food is prepared.”

Regarding the impact of child labor on adolescents' school career, the figures show that it is enormous. Tuñón explains that while in this age group 34% usually have an educational deficit (they do not go to school or are old), in the case of those who work the percentage rises to 43%. “Not necessarily child labor makes children drop out of school, but it also happens the other way around. The two processes occur together,” says the specialist. Regarding the current context, he adds: ”

Quarantine will discourage many poor teens from going back to high school

. It may be that initially they go out to accompany the parents in the most precarious jobs, such as the changarines, but you have to see how much they support themselves. ”

Marcelo's family is single-parent and a working middle class. Going to 4th year of high school in a public school and now

With distance education, she delivers her work at the wrong time and connects to classes when she can.

. It's not that I do not want to.

Do not have time

. Last year, the young man almost dropped out of school, but his teachers held him up so he could get through the year. When he started working longer in March, his hours were adjusted. In addition, the quarantine increased their home responsibilities, with their little brothers around the clock at home. “Sometimes it seems to me that I have enough responsibilities,” admits Marcelo, without fully dimensioning his weight.


. (tagsToTranslate) Child labor and pandemic: the impact on adolescents is concerned – LA NACION

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