Textile industry: child labor still common

Tuesday, 08 October 2013
Around 168 million children are still working worldwide and of those, 85 million in hazardous conditions, so the latest 900-page report “Findings on the worst forms of child labor” by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Unfortunately, the textile and garment industry is one of the sectors that keeps resorting to employing children.

The report tracked the efforts of 143 countries and territories to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and found that in the sourcing countries of Asia, children are employed for producing textiles or fabrics or for embellishing fabrics (zari and other work), especially in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Nepal.


Working children face many dangers

According to the report, “children working within these sectors may have to endure long working hours and work with dangerous tools, machinery or chemicals. … While producing these goods, often in small workshops or homes, they face dangers that may include work with hazardous chemicals and sharp objects, cramped conditions with low lighting, long hours, poor hygiene conditions, operating heavy machinery and carrying heavy loads”.

For Bangladesh, the report found that 10 percent of all children between the ages of 5 and 14 work while 6.8 percent of 7- to 14-year-olds combine work and school. Those numbers are 3.7 and 2.1 percent for Indonesia and unfortunately for Nepal, they were not available. (The report lists no country profile for China for some reason.)

For India, those numbers are 2 and 0.8 percent respectively, which may seem low but given India’s huge child population – at over 400 million or 31 percent of the total population – the largest in the world, this amounts to at least six million working children in India alone, more if those going to school and working are taken into account. Official figures even indicate 12 million child workers while NGOs claim the real figure to be closer to five times that or 60 million.

Cotton harvest and production is another sector where child labor is still prevalent, especially in countries like Uzbekistan, where whole school classes are forced to harvest cotton every summer. Other countries using child labor in this area are India, Indonesia and Kazakhstan as well as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru in South America and Kenya, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast in Africa.

The report will be presented and its findings discussed at the 3rd Global Conference on Child Labor in Brazil, taking place from today until Thursday, 8th to 10th October 2013, in Brazil.

Image: a child in Nepal/Goodweave, Robin Romano