The United Nations on Thursday said that the world has recorded an increase in child labor in 20 years and the current pandemic is feared to drive millions of people of the young age into the similar path.

The International Labor Organization and UNICEF, both of U.N., said in its combined report that there was a rise in 8.4 million children laborers last year in a span of four years. The number has reached 160 million.

The report said that even before the coronavirus crisis, the increase on child labor was already seen.

It noted a striking turnaround of a trend that foresee child labor cases go down by 94 million between 2000 and 2016.

According to Pamela Falk of CBS news, five to 17 year-old children are compelled to go out of the classroom and become part of the workforce, counted as child laborers.

“There have been many tragic economic consequences for poor countries brought on by the coronavirus pandemic” Falk said.

As the pandemic gathered its impact, it is estimated that one in every 10 children in the world were involved in child labor.

These cases mostly affect sub-Saharan Africa.

“Even in regions where there has been some headway since 2016, such as Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, COVID-19 is endangering that progress,” the U.N.’s report said.

The numbers are considered to have had a notable increase given the rise in population, even as the child labor percentage was still similar in 2016.

The agencies said the pandemic can further fuel the situation.

“We are losing ground in the fight to end child labor,” said UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore. She emphasized that “the COVID-19 crisis is making a bad situation even worse.”

“Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and shrinking national budgets, families are forced to make heart-breaking choices,” Fore said.