SUVA, March 29 (Xinhua) — Fiji’s Minister for Women and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa said on Monday the COVID-19 pandemic may reverse years of progress in the fight against child labor in Fiji.
According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC), Vuniwaqa said the COVID-19 crisis had worsened the financial situation of many families.
She said the challenges of addressing child labor had also taken new turns because of the pandemic.
“Children already in child labor may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions. More of them may be forced into the worst forms of labor, which causes significant harm to their health and safety,” she said.
The minister said taking decisive action now is critical in reversing the growing issue of child labor.
In the last 20 years, almost 100 million children have been removed from child labor in the country, bringing numbers down from 246 million in 2000 to 152 million in 2016.
Fiji is working to end child labor in all its forms by the year 2025.
According to International Labour Organization (ILO) Project Officer Victoria Yee, who said early this year during an awareness session on child labor at one of the settlements outside Fiji’s capital Suva that some children in Fiji are involved in the worst forms of child labor, such as commercial sexual exploitation and dealing in illicit drugs to provide for their families.
Yee said children were being used to transport and manufacture drugs and that such forms of child labor mainly existed in poverty-stricken areas.
A rapid assessment survey, conducted by ILO in 2016 on children working on streets, informal sectors and in the worst forms of child labor, showed that 186 working children reported they were engaged in commercial sexual exploitation, as drug peddlers and carried out domestic work for other family members even as security guards.
The report also said that some children worked two or more jobs to earn an income while others were engaged in market vending, worked as car wash-attendants, sold coconuts were bus checkers and shoe shine workers. Enditem