Aid and development agency World Vision has warned that the continuing global financial crisis and the damage it is causing local economies is forcing more and more children around the world into the worst forms of child labour.
"Poverty drives people to desperate measures. And in dire situations, children become one of two things: a source of income or a drain on the income," Jesse Eaves, World Vision's policy adviser for children in crisis, has told The Christian Post.
Eaves explained that as demand from the West falls and the number of export-driven jobs decreases amid the economic downturn, businesses in countries like Cambodia, India and Thailand are likely to lay off workers without advanced warning, thus forcing families to find other income sources through their children.
In Cambodia, Eaves noted, 72 per cent of children in brick factories say they are there because their parents cannot afford to buy food and 22 per cent say their parents forced them to work to pay off debt.
In Phuket, Thailand, World Vision reports a dramatic increase in local and migrant children searching for work in tourist bars and clubs.
On the east coast of India, children are making gravel, smashing rocks in temperatures of nearly 40 degrees celsius for up to 16 hours a day, noted Eaves, who visited Southeast Asia earlier this year to examine the problems on the ground.
Already, 126 million children in the world are working in hazardous conditions and 1.2 million are trafficked and exploited every year as child labourers, Eaves pointed out. Sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking followed by forced labour and child soldiers.
"Many families are naive when recruiters come to their home and promise their 14-year-old daughter a wonderful job in the city," Eaves said. "Often, they fall into slavery and are forced to pay off an imaginary debt to keep them in bondage. But [the recruiters] often send money back to the parents so the parents think she's making money."
Families are also digging a deeper hole when they send children to work. Children earn 20 per cent less than the average labourer, said Eaves.
"So child labour causes poverty and poverty causes child labour. It's a dangerous spiral downward."
One way to break the cycle is to educate the community, says World Vision. The agency is running programmes to educate children about their basic rights and on national laws regarding child labour. The children then tell their peers and parents.
Visit World Vision's childrens advocacy page: http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/learn/globalissues-home
The Christian Post - http://www.christianpost.com/