Industries Built on Child Abuse and Labor

Child labor has been a wide an issue way back decades ago. Today, there are still cases of child labor that we may have known is still happening in the world. There was a time when the media exposed the scenarios of young children sewing soccer ball is Pakistan for merely six cents an hour and the world has gone wild. The international media has since focused attention on child labor for the world to know. There are really existing industries and companies that use child labor. The garment and food industries for example are the leading industries that use child labor. Who knows? The shirt you are wearing now might be from a company that allows child labor, or your favorite chocolate brand may have been using children to work for their company.

            In a case where child labor is discovered, companies that these children are working for should provide the help or aid in the children’s family. One example would be replacing these children with their adult family members to work for the companies instead. And because the company’s illegal doing has been exposed, they should be pressured to provide for economic support for the children and their families. This is when the voice of the people and media comes in. Without exposing these, countries often do not do something about it. But of course, we must be careful on taking actions about child labor. Abolishing child labor is a long-term process. Slow progress is still progress. We must protect are children because they are highly susceptible to become involved in dangerous situations that may result in their illness, injury or even death.

Governments must be wise on answering this problem because well-thought-off solutions will not result to possible worse case scenarios. The very first step will be gaining commitments from companies to stop hiring child or young laborers. Despite global efforts and petitions from humanitarian groups, there are still some companies that use child labor even until today. Here are some of the industries and companies that use child labor.

Fashion industry

            Perhaps the most industry involved in child labor, is the fashion industry. A lot of companies under the industry employ children all around the world. Fast fashion has been pushing companies to find ever-cheaper sources of labor to cope up with the demand. These cheaper sources of labor include child labor because children they are less likely to complain about unjust and illegal conditions. In some countries where garment production takes place, child labor does happen. This has been a particular issue in the fashion industry.

  1. H&M

H&M, or Hennes & Maurtiz, is a Swedish fashion brand. The brand produces products of high quality that people are crazy about. H&M might be showing the eco-friendly image, but the brand is no stranger to human rights controversies. The company has faced allegations. These allegations are in line with neglection in regards to workers’ rights across its various production factories. The company used to bring children from other countries such as the Philippines, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cambodia to assign works for them.

In 2018, there has been an alarming drop in the profits and this suggests that the customers’ patience may have been growing thin. Even though H&M is one of the fast fashion giants, its sustainability practices have also drawn criticism in the recent years. In response to the child labor allegations, the company was quick to point out that the legal working age in Myanmar is 14. The company seems undeterred and is unlikely to change their ways anytime soon.

  • New Look        

New Look is a UK-based fashion retailer. The company is involved in the Myanmar factory scandals that which also brough the brand H&M and also Sports Direct into disrepute. The company may have been dragged into the child labor issue, but unlike its competitors, New Look is at least willing to accept that there is an issue. The company have pledged to ‘work with suppliers and partners in Myanmar to address the findings’. They have made a program for the underage workers to be removed from the factories. These young workers are returned to school and reimbursed with a similar wage.

  • Sports Direct

We have mentioned this company under the issue with New Look. Like New Look, the company has also struggled with its public image and perception. Sports Direct’s controversial owner, Mike Ashley, has come under fire for numerous times for dubious employment practices. Charges pressed against the company include child labor. The issue is in line with the previous Myanmar issue. Like H&M, the company does not seem bothered. Later, the company did claim to condemn child labor practices.

  • GAP

GAP is probably one of the most recognizable jean brands in the world that is also involved in such scandals of child labor. What’s more embarrassing is that the company even employ children of 8 years. That is quite shocking, not to mention, inhuman. The garments were made by the hands of the poor children and women. Just how low can they go. There was an investigation that confirmed that GAP compelled its workers to work 16 hours per day which by the way is illegal in all countries of the world. How many hours do they expect their worker especially the children to rest with the demanding hours of work they still have to think about? How disappointing for such a well-known brand.

  • Nike

Nike has been under fire for child labor. The company being one of the most popular brands has drawn international media to focus the world attention on the fashion industries manufacturing practices. The company has been practicing child labor over many years. They were definitely doing illegal and unethical practices at that time.

The company is still not making a move put a stop to child labor. One of its high ranking official even said that he is not responsible for whatever illegal things are being practiced in the company. This might be one of your favorite brands. What do you say? Do you want to disregard the issues that Nike is under? Or do you want to raise your voice to stop these companies in violating human rights on a daily basis?

Chocolate Industry

            The chocolate or cocoa industry has also been involved in the issue of child labor. Even the companies such as Mars, Nestlé and Hershey have pledged nearly two decades ago to stop using cocoa harvested by children. But still, until today, probably much of the chocolate you buy still starts with child labor. Cocoa grows in the tropical climates like that of Western Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Western African countries, mostly Ghana and the Ivory Coast, supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa. The cocoa which they grow and harvest is being sold to a majority of chocolate companies. The case of child labor is prominent in West Africa. A 2015 U.S. Labor Department report has stated that more than 2 million children were engaged in dangerous labor in cocoa-growing regions for the chocolate companies.

            Western Africa is surrounded by intense poverty, and most begin working at a young age to help support their families. Children may end up on the cocoa farms for they need work and traffickers tell them that the job pays well. How ironic it is, that these children work for the food that is assumed to be their favorite. These companies and the industry in general, should bear responsibilities in helping the eradication of child labor. They should have been the front-liners in protecting these children but instead they are the one promulgating such monstrosity.

Consumers play an essential role in diminishing the food industry’s injustices. Child labor on cocoa farms is a difficult issue to fully address for the most serious abuses take place across the world; however, that does not mean our responsibility is reduced, because chocolate is a luxury and not a necessity.

  • Nestlé

Nestlé  is one of the largest and most recognizable consumer brands in the world. Nestlé been noted for their involvement in child labor. It still continues to receive criticism for the ongoing employment abuses in their supply chain despite signing an industry agreement to eradicate child labor from their cocoa farms in Ghana and Ivory Coast. The most disgusting part about the issue was that these children wasn’t even treated nicely. The children’s living condition definitely was not good.

Nestlé acknowledges that the ‘risk of child labor’ in its supply chain cannot be ‘fully removed’. However, they say that they are ‘determined to tackle the problem’. But the company  has since failed to meet its own eradication targets, with the US appeals court allowing his longstanding legal challenge to proceed. The company is now also facing a separate class-action lawsuit  from US human rights activist Dannell Tomasella. The activist claims that the company are lying to consumers by failing to disclose their ongoing involvement in child labor.

  • Hershey’s

Hershey’s is one of the largest chocolate maker companies in the US, it sells popular Kit Kats, Peppermint Patties and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The US-based confectionary giant has also run into serious labor exploitation problems on their west African cocoa farms. And the same as Nestlé, Hershey’s are also now facing legal action for their practices from the US human rights activist Dannell Tomasella. The company also uses child labor in cocoa farms. Children are being forced to do labor even if it’s not in their level.

The lawsuit filed against Hershey’s claims that the company have repeatedly abandoned any serious attempt to implement the Harkin-Engel Protocol of which they are signatories. The company has also been threatened by airing off the video of the child labor, but Hershey’s does not seem to be affected by such warnings.

  • Mars

 Another famous chocolate company, Mars, has also pledged to eradicate child labor. However, every year, the number of children still increases in cocoa farms. The company has accepted that it uses only certified cocoa. The American global manufacturer is known for the products such as Mars bars, Milky Way bars, M&M’s, Skittles, Snickers, and Twix.

Mars announced in2019 that they couldn’t guarantee that their chocolate products were free from child labor. They said that they could only trace 24% of their purchasing back to the farm level. It is clear that the company did not keep the commitment they have pledged to do. Mars admitted that by 2020 they would free their company from child slavery. But, is it truth? Or is it just a statement to appease to glaring eyes of the world. Because until today, the eradication of child labor is still not achieved.

  • Cadbury

The British multinational confectionery, Cadbury, has high demands for cheap child laborers. The company was established in John Cadbury, in Birmingham, England way back 1824. Cadbury is the second largest confectionery brand in the world after Mars. Because it has high demands for cheap child laborers, they cannot stop child labor in their company. Cadbury can pay more money to workers as they are encouraged by the organizations. But it seems that they are not willing to do so as workers cannot leave the company having fear of losing their job. Also, the company is also familiar with this fact.

Tobacco Industry

            The industry comprises of companies engaged in the growth and distribution of tobacco and tobacco-related products. It is indeed a global industry. Tobacco can grow in any warm, moist environment. It means that it can be farmed on all continents except Antarctica. Tobacco is one of the most widely used addictive substances in the world. The plant is native to the Americas.

            The International Labor Organization says that the tobacco industry is one of the most hazardous for child workers. It is due to long work hours, extreme heat, exposure to dangerous chemicals, having to carry heavy loads and risk of attack from animals. An average child worker in the works around 10 hours a day in the tobacco industry. And that is alarming.

  1. Philip Morris

Philip Morris is one of the biggest players in the tobacco industry. The leading tobacco brand which owns Marlboro has a long history of exploiting children. In 2010, the company admitted that children as young as 10 had been forced into labor on its contracted tobacco farms in Kazakhstan. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims that the company was slow to implement their suggestions for tackling the issue about child labor.

Many children have suffered from the problem of nausea, vomiting, dizziness which was caused due to the release of harmful pesticides in factories of the company. The company took only a minor part of blame on itself mentioning that it is taking steps to stop child labor in their company. However, the issue about child labor in the company is still ongoing today.

  1. British American Tobacco (BAT)

The British American Tobacco is the biggest listed tobacco company in the world. Despite this, it has faced numerous accusations of enabling child labor practices. Reports have surfaced in 2016 that children have been working in hostile conditions on BAT tobacco farms in Bangladesh, in which the company stringently refutes.

Concerns over the welfare of children and their labor use have surfaced. An academic at the University of Colorado claims that child labor is present in the tobacco production process of the factories of the British American Tobacco. The company is still turning a blind eye despite the accusations put to them.

Technology Industry

            This may be really unbelievable, but some tech giants do child labor. Technology is evolving, but the ways on how it evolves is still the same. The same issue of child labor way back years or decades ago is still present. A lot has changed in the world, child labor is not one of them.

  1. Microsoft

Microsoft is the top employer and a philanthropic pioneer, so you could say it has its global reputation. Even having such reputation, allegations have surfaced in October 2018 that child labor was being used to extract cobalt for the company in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Amnesty International investigators claim that children as young as 7 are mining the product in toxic and hostile conditions for 12 hours a day. The good thing was that, the company was quick to address the allegations. They have produced a report in 2018 about the details of the actions they have taken to eradicate child labor.

  1. Apple

Apple has a  reputation for being an innovative brand. The company is always at the forefront of technology. Apple has become a dream company for many graduates and interns. Despite being almost perfect, questions were still raised about what exactly goes on in its supply chain. In 2013, there was a discovery that a Chinese contractor was employing 74 minors. Apple has also admitted that its best-selling iPhone X product was being made by schoolchildren.

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