Child Labour, The Pandemic, and the Lebanon Office of Peaceland Foundation

Child labour is defined as a situation in which a child is continually exploited for any employment. It takes the best years of his/her life away from the youngster. As a result, not only are their talents and dignity harmed, but they are also morally and socially vulnerable to trauma (Zahed, 2020).


Child labour is more common in low-income nations, and children there are more likely to be involved in hazardous tasks (ILO, 2015). Those who work at an early age are facing negative consequences such as decreased schooling, deterioration of physical and mental health, poor employment, and reduced socioeconomic opportunities in the long run (Trinh, 2020).


According to a recent analysis co-authored by the ILO and UNICEF, 160 million children – 63 million girls and 97 million boys – are estimated to be working as minors by the start of 2020, accounting for about one in ten of all children worldwide. Furthermore, it concerns that worldwide progress against child labour has stalled since 2016.  The percentage of children in child labour remained constant over four years while the total number of them climbed by over 8 million. Furthermore, without immediate mitigating efforts, the COVID-19 catastrophe will reintroduce millions of children into child labour (ILO and UNICEF, 2021).




Children in child labour have a tremendous issue in accessing sustainable, inclusive, and affordable education. Research showed that there were huge and statistically significant adverse associations with participation in income-generating work, such as work on the farm and participation in household chores, and future reading and mathematical tests (Dinku, 2020). Long-term off-school without education has a tremendous impact on puberty and adulthood of these youngsters. Evidence reveals that child labour under the age of 10 always has a detrimental impact on adult employment (Burrone, 2020).


There is little evidence on the mental health of child labour in developing societies. Nevertheless, some findings still show that children engaged in child labour suffer from mental health issues measured by peer problems and reduced prosocial behaviour. Undertaking work is usually associated with missing school and losing time for learning, playing, and peer interaction. Especially for those who work in a profession that is regarded as humiliating or mundane, they might feel rejection from peers and thus affect their self-esteem (Trinh, 2020).




Domestic tasks are connected with vulnerable employment, both at the margin and at the threshold level, for girls. Child labor could widen gender gap in the likelihood of precarious employment for women (Burrone, 2020). It is partly because that biased parental preferences may influence the intra-household allocation of time and the human capital accumulation of girls, which will jeopardies girls’ labour market opportunities; and that unfavourable labour market conditions for girls would lead to underinvest in their education. Heavy engagement in both household farm and domestic work will also obstacle acquiring transferable skills and knowledge.



Child Refugee labour

In Lebanon, Habib (2020a) investigated the physical circumstances of 4090 working Syrian refugee children (8-18 years). Results revealed that children are engaged in strenuous work, and girls bear a double burden of work inside and outside their households.


The research also assessed the association of social capital and social cohesion with the health and emotional well-being of those children. Of the 4,090 working children in the study, 11% reported poor health, 16% reported having a health problem, and 13% were engaged in risky behaviours. The majority (67.5%) reported feeling lonely, while around 53% were optimistic and 59% were satisfied with life. It is not hard to tell how bad the situation is, and immediate protection is needed to safeguard their health.).


“The most marginalized children, including the poorest, displaced and conflict-affected children, girls and children with disabilities faced barriers to accessing quality education even before the pandemic. COVID-19 has further compounded their learning outcomes and wellbeing.” The right to education afforded to refugee children is badly harmed, according to a report issued by Save the Children (Sebastien, 2021). Without the requisite tools to access online education, or, even worse, without the appropriate educational resources supplied for them, refugee children faced an imminent risk of being expelled from school.



Child Labor under COVID-19

The escalating pandemic waves are not affecting all children equally, in any aspect. Children in labour is a highly overlooked topic in research and policies than other aspects of child abuse provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic (Ahad, 2020). Unless immediate mitigating steps are taken, the COVID-19 situation threatens to destroy worldwide advances against child labour. New analysis suggests a further 8.9 million children will be in child labour by the end of 2022 due to rising poverty driven by the pandemic.


According to the latest report (ILO and UNICEF, 2021), child labour intertwined with multi-faceted inequalities: gender, urban-rural and industrial development, family background and education opportunities. By age, more boys (11.2%) are in child labour than girls (7.8%) at all ages, with an absolute number of 34 million. There are 122.7 million rural children in child labour compared to 37.3 million urban children. The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (13.9%) is three times higher than in urban areas (4.7%). 70% of all children in child labour are working in the agricultural industry. 72% of all child labour occurs within families, primarily on family farms or in family microenterprises. More than 25% of children aged 5 to 11 and over 33% of children aged 12 to 14 who are in child labour are out of school.


Most children are pushed into labour to support the fundamental needs of their families in the epidemic. Studies (Becker, 2020; Sserwanja, 2021) suggests that Covid-19 may result in parental unemployment, sickness or death, a drop in household incomes, which will force parents to seek employment prospects for their children. Becker (2020) also demonstrates that school closures will trigger an increase in child labour plight. Studies (Gupta, 2020; Ramaswamy, 2020; Sserwanja, 2021) also note an increase in child sexual and physical abuse, child labour, limited access to basic needs and lack of social support, especially since the lockdown, and that result in immediate and long-term mental health problems in children.



Cash Transfer and Child Labor

New evidence (Churchill, 2021) proved that unconditional cash transfers could help to reduce child labour amongst boys and girls. This study examines the impact of Pakistan’s Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which is the most extensive cash transfer programme in South Asia, on child labour and educational outcomes. The success of financial transfers in lowering child labour and raising child human capital appears to depend on several factors: household income, parental compassion, the kid’s labour and educational output. Result also demonstrates potential gender inequality that might be brought by the BISP intervention. It claims that the dropout rate amongst boys is reducing in the short term but increases among girls. This phenomenon might attribute to discrimination and prejudice that engenders a general preference for sons to have higher future earning capacity.



Peaceland Foundation in Beirut

The Beirut Office of Peaceland Foundation has been carrying out emergency aid, job training, and educational programs for Syrian refugees since its inception in June 2019. The Foundation initiated the youth education program, which offered Syrian refugee youths’ English educational courses. During the pandemic, the Foundation distributed anti-epidemic supplies in two refugee camps in Beirut, covering more than one thousand beneficiaries. Five rounds of unconditional cash and in-kind transfers (foods, supplies etc.) worth 16,500 US dollars have been completed by the Lebanon office since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019 and 2020, which directly distributed to more than 60 targeted refugee children and their families.


Without mitigating measures, the number of children working as children might increase from 160 million in 2020 to 168.9 million by 2022. (ILO and UNICEF, 2021). The epidemic has increased markedly the hazard of child labour, particularly due to a rapid rise in poverty, which may increase families’ dependency on child labour. And school closures also deprive families of a reasonable option to sending their children to work. Expanded financial assistance measures for vulnerable families, such as child benefits and other methods, will be crucial in reducing these risks.



Author: Ruichuan Yu,  Editor: Ling Li





Journal Articles

Ahad, M. A., Parry, Y. K., & Willis, E. (2020). Spillover Trends of Child Labor During the Coronavirus Crisis-an Unnoticed Wake-Up Call. Frontiers in Public Health, 8.

Burrone, S., & Giannelli, G. C. (2020). Child Labour, Gender and Vulnerable Employment in Adulthood. Evidence for Tanzania. The Journal of Development Studies, 56(12), 2235-2250.

Churchill, S. A., Iqbal, N., Nawaz, S., & Yew, S. L. (2021). Unconditional cash transfers, child labor and education: theory and evidence. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 186, 437-457.

Dinku, Y., & Fielding, D. (2020). The long-term association between child labour and cognitive development. Oxford Development Studies, 1-22.

Gupta, S., & Jawanda, M. K. (2020). The impacts of COVID‐19 on children. Acta Paediatrica, 109(11), 2181-2183.

Habib, R. R., Ziadee, M., Abi Younes, E., & Harastani, H. (2020a). Syrian refugee child workers: Gender differences in ergonomic exposures and musculoskeletal health. Applied ergonomics, 83, 102983.

Habib, R. R., El-Harakeh, A., Ziadee, M., Abi Younes, E., & El Asmar, K. (2020b). Social capital, social cohesion, and health of Syrian refugee working children living in informal tented settlements in Lebanon: A cross-sectional study. PLoS medicine, 17(9), e1003283.

Ramaswamy, S., & Seshadri, S. (2020). Children on the brink: Risks for child protection, sexual abuse, and related mental health problems in the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian journal of psychiatry, 62(Suppl 3), S404.

Sserwanja, Q., Kawuki, J., & Kim, J. H. (2021). Increased child abuse in Uganda amidst COVID‐19 pandemic. Journal of paediatrics and child health, 57(2), 188-191.

Trinh, T. A. (2020). Mental health impacts of child labour: evidence from Vietnam and India. The Journal of Development Studies, 56(12), 2251-2265.

Zahed, G., Chehrehrazi, N., & Nouri Talemi, A. (2020). How Does COVID-19 Affect Child Labor. Archives of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 8(3).


Becker J. Covid-19 Pandemic Threatens Progress on Child Labor. Human Rights Watch. (2020).

Hine, Sébastien; Wagner, Emma (2021). Progress Under Threat: Refugee education one year on from the Global Refugee Forum and the impact of COVID-19, Save the Children UK

International Labour Organization. (2015). World report on child labour 2015: Paving the way to decent work for young people. International Labour Organization.

ILO and UNICEF. (2021) Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward. ILO and UNICEF

World Health Organization (WHO). (2020) Joint Leader’s Statement—Violence Against Children: A Hidden Crisis of the COVID-19 Pandemic.