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IF child labour briefing

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IF child labour briefing

  1. 1. PAGE 1 Coast – the problem is also rife across the service (54 million) and manufacturing (12 million) sectors, particularly in the fashion and garment industry. A range of child labour laws have helped to improve the situation. The ILO figures point to a 30% decline in children working between 2000 and 2012. But with 11% of the world’s children in a situation that deprives them of their right to go to school without interference from work, it’s a big, thorny issue that puts many of the world’s biggest brands at serious risk. The latest figures from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests that some 260 million children are in employment somewhere around the world. Of those, it estimates that 168 million are engaged in child labour, defined by the UN as “work for which the child is either too young (work done below the required minimum age) or work which, because of its detrimental nature or conditions, is unacceptable for children and is prohibited”. More than half of these (85 million) are carrying out hazardous work in mines, agricultural fields and factories throughout the world. According to the ILO, the Asia-Pacific region still has the most child labour victims, with 78 million or 9.3% of the child population. But sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest incidence of child labour (59 million, over 21% of children). Meanwhile, while the situation is not quite as serious in Latin America (13 million, 8.8%) or the Middle East and North Africa (9.2m, 8.4%), it is clear that the problem stretches far and wide. It also taints many sectors. While agriculture remains the sector with the most instances of child labour, with 98 million young people employed in fields – particularly in cocoa- producing nations like Ghana and the Ivory CHILD LABOUR Thepersistentproblem The past decade has seen the corporate world no longer ignorant to instances of child labour in their supply chains. Yet, with such complex commodities, like fashion, cocoa and cobalt at the forefront of the problem, there is no straightforward solution to eradicating it completely just yet Essential insight • TheILO figurespaintastark, horrifying pictureof justhowmany children are beingused to workinfields andfactories everywhere,withmany sectors, commodities andproductstaintedby the issue. • The west African cocoa fields are responsible for a fifth of all child labourers – a problem that Nestlé is trying to combat by helping farmers boost their incomes. • Nestlé’s partnership with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) is making its approach entirely transparent, making it easier to come down hard on suppliers known to violate its child labour policies. • Fast-fashion has a specific challenge because even when brands have strict guidelines in place, work can often get sub-contracted to other factories that buyers know nothing about. • Artisanal mines in the DRC are responsible for much of the cobalt that ends up in new gadgets, like iPads. Yet they also employ a wealth of children, carrying out dangerous work. • International conventions have been useful in bringing into play minimum working age legislation in countries around the world – and are a useful place to start when having conversations with suppliers about what is expected of them. SUPPLY CHAINS IN FOCUS There are 260m children in employment worldwide – 169m of which are in child labour Most child labour victims are in Asia-Pacific, with 9.3% of the child population working INNOVATION FORUM
  2. 2. PAGE 2 A series of journalistic exposés and NGO interventions have put the issue of children being used for work in the cocoa fields of West Africa front and centre. Yet the problem persists and is, in fact, getting worse. One-fifth of all global child labourers are working in agriculture across Africa and around half of these are victims of the worst forms of child labour (WFCL), carrying heavy loads, using machetes to clear forests or working with chemicals. In the Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest producer of cocoa, the number of children doing hazardous work has increased by 46% since 2009, according to a recent study by Tulane University. Useful skills? Of course, not all child labour is considered to be an abuse on human rights; in many African rural communities it is more than acceptable for children to help on the family farm where they can often learn skills that will stand them in good stead for the future should they decide to continue the agricultural work of their parents. “Children performing light, age-appropriate work for limited hours outside of school and supervised by adults does not constitute child labour,” says Borjana Pervan from the International Cocoa Initiative, which exists to eliminate child labour by working with governments and the big cocoa buyers. “But when this work becomes hazardous or keeps them from attending school, it becomes ‘child labour’ and must be addressed.” The ILO’s conventions on both dealing with WFCL and the minimum age of work have offered a foundation for national governments to adopt their own legislation to prohibit the employment of children. However, as Reid Maki, director of child labour advocacy at the Child Labor Coalition, suggests, “weak child labour laws and nations’ inability to enforce child labour laws that do exist” is only exacerbating the problem. The Harkin-Engel Protocol – an international agreement negotiated in the wake of a 2000 BBC documentary linking the cocoa sector to child slavery and trafficking – saw cocoa-buyers and governments promising to get tough. All of the evidence points to the fact that it hasn’t worked in the intervening years. A strategy adopted by many of the big cocoa buyers, like Nestlé and Mondelez, is to boost the living wages of farmers so that they do not need to employ children to survive. The Nestlé Cocoa Plan, for example, is designed to give farmers the advice, training and support they need to boost the productivity of their crops and, therefore, their income. The company has gone one step further too by teaming up with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to investigate its cocoa supply chain and publicly highlight child labour violations, keeping the company on its toes by continuously assessing the situation. Now, working with the ICI and representatives in farming cooperatives on the ground in Ivory Coast, it has established a monitoring system to identify the children that are working when they shouldn’t be and drawing up plans to do something about it. Remediation options range from helping to provide birth certificates so that children can get into school, to kick-starting income- generating projects for women. And the approach is getting results. For the first time, more than 4,000 children have been properly identified (about 18% of the total number Nestlé has surveyed). Half of them are currently being “remediated” and 300 are now no longer child labourers. Out of fashion Fast fashion has engendered a race to the bottom, pushing companies to find ever-cheaper sources of labour – hence the prominence of child labour throughout a sector which requires low-skilled labour and SUPPLY CHAINS IN FOCUS The key conventions on child labour The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 32 of the UN’s convention states that governments must protect children from economic exploitation and work that is dangerous or might harm their health, development or education. They must also set a minimum age for children to work and ensure that work conditions are safe and appropriate. The International Labour Organisation Convention No. 138 The ILO recommendation sets a minimum age for admission to employment and work – something it sees as being one of the most effective methods of ensuring that children do not start working too young. The International Labour Organisation Convention No. 182 This recommends that governments take action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour that comprises: all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, prostitution and illicit activities likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. DRC’s 150,000 artisanal miners employ 40,000CHILDREN INNOVATION FORUM
  3. 3. PAGE 3 tasks that are often better suited to children than adults. For example, in cotton picking, farmers prefer to hire children for their small fingers, which do not damage the crop. According to Stop Child Labour, there are many girls in countries like India and Bangladesh who are willing to work for very low prices and are easily brought into these industries under false promises of earning decent wages. A recent report by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) revealed that recruiters in southern India convince parents in impoverished rural areas to send their daughters to spinning mills with promises of a well-paid job, comfortable accommodation and opportunities for training and schooling, as well as a lump sum payment at the end of three years. Field research shows that, in reality, they work in poor conditions that amount to modern day slavery and the worst forms of child labour. The SOMO/ICN report claims child labour to be rampant in the yarn and spinning mills too, with 60% of workers at the mills it investigated in India being under 18 when they started working there. The youngest workers were 15 when they joined. The biggest challenge for the fashion supply chain is the complexities of producing each garment. Even when brands have strict guidelines in place for suppliers, work often gets sub-contracted to other factories that the buyer may not even know about. Child labour at heart of batteries Ten per cent of the cobalt produced and used by some of the biggest technology and mining companies relies on child labour and worker exploitation. That is the view of a new report by Amnesty International and African Resources Watch whose investigation found that 20% of cobalt exported from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which produces half of the world’s supply, was extracted by small-scale operations with virtually no oversight. Though most cobalt is produced by major industrial companies – many of which are under scrutiny to address their social and environmental performance – a large amount still comes from rudimentary operations where it is extracted by hand and mixed into the main supply chain before being used by major technology firms. Another challenge is that cobalt sits outside of the current legislation regulating the mining of tin, gold, tungsten and tantalum. Up to 150,000 so-called artisanal miners currently operate in the DRC, employing around 40,000 children, according to Unicef. They extract cobalt with basic tools, wash it and sell it into a market that eventually resells it to the big IT sector manufacturers, according to Amnesty. The NGO carried out interviews with DRC workers and children reporting that typical conditions require miners work without face masks or gloves for shifts of 12 hours or more. Wages in these mines are as low as 1,000 Congolese francs (£0.75) per day – not enough to cover the typical cost of education. Many of the children working do not attend school and some work up to 12 hours on weekends and holidays. While the large technology players have been widely criticised for using DRC-sourced cobalt in their gadgets, the investigation pointed a finger at the DRC government which it says employs “just 20 inspectors for the entire mining region in the south of the country, with non-governmental bodies providing little extra oversight”. Yes, cobalt has a complex supply chain with the presence of small-scale operators clouding the visibility of the sector. But Amnesty references the United Nations advice that clearly states it is the responsibility of business to carry out due diligence at each SUPPLY CHAINS IN FOCUS 20%OFCOBALT EXPORTED from DRC is extracted by small-scale miners Expert commentary “For many families in developing countries, their children’s labour can make the difference between survival and starvation. Addressing the issue of child labour therefore needs to look at society as a whole. How can the population as a whole, not just children, have more secure and diversified – and safer – ways of making a living?” Dr Peter Davis, principal of Consilience Global, and specialist adviser on fragile states to the World Bank, IFC UNDP and the OECD INNOVATION FORUM 60% of workers at Indian mills investigated by SOMO/ICN were under 18 when they started working there
  4. 4. PAGE 4 stage, and to “identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights”. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also provides a practical due diligence guide, which lays out a clear process for companies to follow. In response to the investigation, many of the biggest technology companies have insisted they are doing more to examine their supply chains, and have a zero-tolerance approach to child labour, wherever it was identified. Samsung, for example, claims that it is “very hard to trace the source of the mineral due to the suppliers’ non-disclosure of information and is therefore impossible to determine exactly where its cobalt is coming from. But it adds that if a violation of child labour is found, “contracts with suppliers will be immediately terminated”. What can be done? Ultimate transparency is key to eradicating child labour instances from your supply chain. The newly launched ILO/International Organisation of Employers (IOE) tool for companies looking to eliminate child labour in supply chains by 2025 offers some welcome guidance. Amongst its practical advice, the tool offers definitions of the nature of child labour impacts; suggests how companies can assess if child labour is a pressing issue for their business; and, outlines policies that companies should have in place to meet the expectations of the relevant UN conventions and principles. And among the essential advice shared by the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative are: • Be aware of which countries, regions and sectors you source from – and where there is a greater chance of child labour happening – and respond accordingly with policies and procedures that are communicated internally to the relevant teams, such as buyers. • Engagement with suppliers is crucial too. Make sure they are aware of the need to comply with minimum age provisions of national labour laws and regulations and international standards and conventions, whichever is higher. • Should children below the legal working age be found in the workplace, make sure the supplier takes measures to remove them from work and help them to seek viable alternatives and access to schooling for the children. • If unemployed adults are identified in the family, the supplier can offer them to take the child’s place but to a decent wage paid to an adult. In any case do not leave the family without an alternative income as this might lead the children into even worse alternatives. Child labour is deeply rooted in poverty and a lack of decent alternatives. As such, it cannot be eliminated by the actions and efforts of one single company or NGO alone. Partnership working with sector competitors, other companies, associations and employers’ organisations to develop an industry-wide approach to address the issue, and build bridges with trade unions, governments and others is a key focus. Initiatives and programmes such as the Child Labour Platform (CLP) and The Fair Wear Foundation, whch has a list of over 120 brands that have signed up to its code of labour practices which do not allow for the use of child labour, offer useful platforms for collective action. The past decade has seen the sectors at most risk escorted out of ignorance and denial about child labour and a more constructive understanding of the issue has been realised. But there is no easy solution and growing commitments from business, industry-wide commitments to responsible sourcing and ever-increasing investment can only be seen as a first step. ★ SUPPLY CHAINS IN FOCUS ONEFIFTHOFALL GLOBALCHILD LABOURERS are working in agriculture in Africa In Ivory Coast, the number of children doing hazardous work has INCREASEDBY 46%SINCE2009 Fast fashion has engendered a race to the bottom, pushing companies to find ever-cheaper sources of labour INNOVATION FORUM

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