Studies Reveal Child Labor Exploitation Affects Over 170 Million

child labor exploitation fashion industry

Child Labor Exploitation Still Way Too High

Child labor exploitation may not be at all time high but studies have shown that more than 260 million children all across the globe are victims of child labor, in one way or another. Out of those 260 million children, about 170 million are engaged in the kind of work that isn’t suitable and too extreme for their age.

It is the government’s responsibility to keep children away from work that is in some way detrimental to their health, as well as their education. It doesn’t mean that children can’t run errands or do house chores. It simply means that children should not be put under the following situations.  

Children should be kept far away from situations that put them, their health, and their general well-being in jeopardy. They shouldn’t be forced into performing tasks that are too arduous for their age. Their basic right to eat, sleep, relax and enjoy their childhood shouldn’t be compromised.

Who doesn’t like to cover their bodies with the latest apparel out there? Considering the rapid growth of the fashion industry, one can easily conclude that fashion has indeed become an integral component of our lives. This puts the fashion houses in an extremely competitive position. To stay ahead of the game, their factories need to work day in and day out. For this purpose, they need children who can do all the running around for them, and keep their supply chain running. For high-profile fashion businesses, children constitute a cheap and readily available workforce.

Child Exploitation in Fashion Industry Growing At A Rapid Pace

What Are the Reasons Behind Child Labor Exploitation?

One of the many reasons companies resort to hiring younger kids to work for them is that they are easy to track. According to a senior professional at the Sofie Nova, one of the reasons why children fall prey to child labor is the lack of supervision or control. Furthermore, there aren’t many unions that can help kids negotiate for better working conditions. These kids become easy targets for they lack skill, and they don’t have anyone by their side, to stand up and speak for their rights.  

According to an ethical fashion report published in 2017, a majority of the fashion companies are well aware of who is supplying their products at the final stage of the manufacturing process.  People working at this stage of the supply chain are the ones who enjoy the healthiest relationship with the company itself. However, in recent years, the number of child labor cases has reduced to a great extent. Still, if you delve deeper into the industry, you will explore devastatingly horrid stories of how kids are being used and abused.

Child Labor is a Bizarre Practice

Child labor exploitation is too easy to get away with, which is why many unethical factories prefer to hire children. Research conducted by the Center for Research on Multinational Corporations reveals that there exists a clear link between child labor and hiring adults on low wages. The same factories are usually ignoring gender-based violence which is also running rampant in garment factories.The two situations can easily be found in cotton and garment businesses.

The people who run these businesses argue that if child labor is abolished, the adults will be in a better position to bargain for higher wages, which won’t be too profitable for the garment companies. Not only will they fight for better salaries, but they will also ask for improved work conditions, which is an investment altogether.

A deeper understanding of this dilemma would unfold how there is a correlation between child labor and adult unemployment, or at least underemployment. If a child makes lesser money than an adult for the same task, it is a clear indication that his or her family is living on or below the poverty line. On the flip side, if the adults are paid a reasonable amount of money, their children can enjoy a good education and a better standard of life. This might even give them a chance to obliterate the stranglehold of poverty, which makes them engage in odd jobs. Some people argue that the skills that these children are learning will help them become better professionals in the future. Sure, helping your grandpa around the farm and working 12 hours a day with hazardous chemicals, in an unsafe environment are two entirely different scenarios.

Child Labor Exploitation in Cotton Businesses

It is not uncommon for children to be working in multiple stages of fashion businesses. However, the stage with the highest involvement of underage children is the picking of cotton. They are even found in the spinning and weaving plants.

In Uzbekistan, government officials force young girls to work in the cotton industry. If they resent in some way, they threaten them by saying that they will be expelled from the school, if they refuse to work. The conditions of cotton mills in southern India are even crueler. The factory managers add certain hormones in the food of poor teenage girls working for them. These hormones keep them from menstruating, for women tend to act less productively during their periods.

Lack of awareness is another factor because of which child labor goes unnoticed. More than 90% of the fashion brands in Australia are completely unaware of where their cotton comes from. This allows child exploiters to get away with the hideous crime of forcing children into performing tasks, that aren’t suitable for their age.

What Can Be Done?

Luckily, things aren’t as bad as they used to be. With an increase in awareness and pressure from the consumers, Nike, a renowned sports clothing brand, was forced to revise its rules regarding labor. It sounds weird, but things are improving, although at a slower pace. Since the year 2000, the number of working children has dropped considerably from 246 million to 168 million. The number of girls in the workforce has decreased by 40%, but that for the boys has only decreased by a mere 25%. It means that there is still a lot of work to be done. However, with the involvement of high-profile organizations like UNICEF, we will provide our children with a future of safety, happiness, and youthful exuberance.

The Scott Cooper Miami Project, through its Child Labor Exploitation Program, is committed to investigative reporting and promoting technology based approaches to exposing the abuse of children and other human rights violations in the fashion industry.

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