Child Labor related news from around the world

The Death of Zohra Shah is a Call to Action: Child Domestic Servants Must Be Protected

By Reid Maki

Sometimes words fail.

This is the case when I read the story, “Couple torture and murder 8-year-old maid for letting parrots free, Pakistan police say”—about the death of Zohra Shah, a servant in the city of Rawalpindi in Punjab. Her employers beat the little girl into unconsciousness because she had accidently let a caged bird, or birds, go free—a startling metaphor for her situation, working as a child slave entrapped in the family’s house.

The police found many marks and bruises on the little girl’s body—some of them not new, including some that suggested to them that she may have been sexually assaulted as well. It isn’t hard to surmise that this Zohra’s life was a living hell.

Not all child servants around the world are abused, but it is fair to say that because they work in people’s homes—often invisibly to the public—they are extremely vulnerable to abuse. The International Labour Organizations estimates that around the world 7.5 million children under 15 work as domestic servants.

According to the report in the online newspaper The Independent, the girl’s uncle had hired her out. ‘“The couple had promised her uncle that they would provide her education and pay a salary of R[upee]s 3000 per month (£16). But they neither gave her education nor paid salary,” a spokesperson said.’

Imagine essentially buying a child for $20 a month to be a live-in maid and then refusing to even pay that paltry sum or allow the child to exercise their universal human right to education.… Read the rest

As is the case in most crises, the most vulnerable in society will feel the worst impacts of COVID-19. Children, especially those from poor communities, are at particular risk of exploitation as parents fall deeper into poverty during the ensuing economic crisis and face appalling choices about how to sustain their families. Some may feel forced to send their children into the labor market while others seeking employment risk being trafficked for forced labor. COVID-19 may increase the risk of child labor in the following ways:

Schools are closing for indefinite periods of time

  • Children lacking access to the internet and technology, especially those from impoverished and rural communities, will be unable to participate in remote self-guided learning during school closures.
  • In addition to the immediate loss of learning, some students may decide to drop out of school permanently.
  • Experience shows that children and youth not enrolled in school are at a much higher risk of child labor.
  • When schools reopen, parents without jobs may not have the money to pay for school fees, supplies, and uniforms.

Freedom of movement is increasingly restricted

  • This makes it more difficult for community leaders, social workers, and civil society organizations to monitor and provide support to vulnerable children, putting them at a higher risk of exploitation.
  • Public health measures such as stay-at-home orders and curfews will limit access to hired adult labor, resulting in labor shortages and a demand for local workers, including children.

Relaxation of child labor regulation and enforcement

  • Proposals have already been put forward to lower the minimum age for child labor to cope with labor shortages in the coffee sector. It is likely similar moves from other sectors and countries will follow. Cash-strapped governments may weaken child labor law enforcement
  • Weakened child labor laws and enforcement will exacerbate already widespread violations of child labor law, especially in rural and agricultural sectors, where enforcement is more costly and time-consuming.
  • This could lead to increases in hazardous work and other worst forms of child labor, including forced labor and human trafficking.

Increased competition for resources and diminished economic opportunities

  • This will make it difficult for families to support themselves financially.
  • This may compel parents to put their children to work so that they can contribute to their families’ incomes.

Disease outbreaks leading to illness and death can disrupt family ties

  • Orphaned or highly vulnerable children who have lost one or both parents during the crisis lack resources and protection, making them vulnerable to child labor.

Reduced government capacity to support vulnerable children

  • There will likely be a reduction in free meal programs, health services, childcare services, and other social service provisions.

Although businesses must make hard financial and practical decisions during times of crisis, the moral and legal imperative to protect workers in company supply chains applies even more in these times of burgeoning vulnerability. Companies must identify risks, sustain commitments to human rights, and address the unique vulnerabilities of workers and children who are employed at the bottom of supply chains. Steps that companies should take to address the increased risk of child labor during the coronavirus crisis include:

Companies should conduct due diligence to ensure that pandemic response activities do not contribute to the exploitation of children.

  • Effective due diligence entails identifying and assessing actual or potential adverse human rights impacts and taking action to address them.
  • Business for Social Responsibility has created a rapid human rights due diligence tool to help with decision-making and the UN Development Program (UNDP) has developed a Rapid Self-Assessment for Business.
  • UNICEF has developed a guide for companies on integrating children’s rights into business policies.
  • For the agricultural sector, the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) has a library of resources to help protect workers during the coronavirus outbreak and printable materials to share directly with workers in English and Spanish that underscore preventive measures.

Companies must assess where risks are highest in order to prioritize interventions.

  • Countries that have high rates of child labor and human trafficking during relatively stable times will likely be more at risk during a pandemic.
  • The identification of ‘‘hot spots’’ will allow for more targeted interventions. Companies should communicate with suppliers in high-risk countries to understand challenges in identifying and addressing child labor and human trafficking during the crisis and encourage them to make protection of children a priority.
  • Companies may find information about child labor and forced labor risk in international child labor and forced labor reports published by the US Department of Labor, or in the annual Trafficking in Persons Report from the US Department of State.
  • Verité’s Responsible Sourcing Tool highlights the links between child labor and forced labor risks and helps companies understand risks of worker exploitation by sector and geography.

Companies must ensure that supplier policies provide sufficient support to workers and their families at the commodity level.

  • During the crisis, expanded policies should include sick and family leave for all categories of workers, increased health and safety protections, accommodations for remote work where possible, protections for workers laid off or furloughed, and an expansion of worker grievance systems.
  • Access a set of general principles drafted by Verité.

 

Companies must provide increased support for small-scale producers.

  • Companies must support small-scale suppliers with cash and credit to facilitate continued employment of workers, along with paid sick and family leave, and flexible working arrangements.
  • Companies should consider conversion of sustainability premiums to cash transfers or the creation of new, short-term, emergency funds to channel emergency resources to humanitarian organizations, cooperatives, and producer organizations in the areas from which they source.
  • Companies must remind suppliers about the importance of adhering to policies on child labor even during times of crisis. The ILO has guidelines for companies on developing strong child labor policies.

Companies must involve at-risk youth in the identification of needs for support services.

Measures must be taken to ensure support for children left alone due to the hospitalization or death of a parent or caregiver

  • This could include direct support for civil-society groups and frontline social-service providers (e.g. teachers, social workers, and youth groups) so that they can maintain outreach to vulnerable children and youth.

Through multi-stakeholder initiatives, companies can promote information sharing on support services available to children in sourcing countries.

  • These can include free meal programs, mental health counseling, childcare, remote learning opportunities, and birth registration services.

This article originally appeared on Verite’s web site on April 21, 2020.

For more information, contact Lisa Cox at lcox@verite.org.

Please send questions and topics for future articles related to COVID-19 in supply chains to covid19@verite.org.


The photo included in this article is used solely to illustrate the locations and situations in which risk of forced or child labor is being discussed. The people shown in the photo(s) do not represent any specific person or group of people noted in the text.

Photo credit: Nikolai Kazakov/shutterstock.com

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Press Release: Rep. Roybal-Allard, 24 Cosponsors Reintroduce CARE Act to Strengthen Protections for Child Farmworkers

[Released by Rep. Roybal-Allard]

June 20, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT

Ben Soskin

(202) 225-1766

Benjamin.Soskin@mail.house.gov

Rep. Roybal-Allard, 24 Cosponsors Reintroduce CARE Act to Strengthen Protections for Child Farmworkers

Washington, DC Today, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) led the reintroduction of her Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE), which raises labor standards and protections for farm worker children to the same level set for children in all other occupations.  The congresswoman announced the CARE Act’s reintroduction at a press event in the U.S. Capitol alongside advocates including Mónica Ramírez, the president of Justice for Migrant Women; Norma López, the chair of the Domestic Issues Committee for the Child Labor Coalition; and Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas, a former child farmworker who recently made national news for her valedictorian speech at her high school graduation.  Congresswoman Roybal-Allard reintroduced today’s bill with 24 House cosponsors.

 “America is morally obligated to protect the rights, safety, and future of every child in our nation,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard.  “Sadly, our child agricultural workers do not enjoy these protections.  They currently face a double standard that lets them work at younger ages, for longer hours, and in more hazardous conditions than child workers in any other industry.  If we value our youth, if we support fair and decent treatment for all children, then we must pass the CARE Act and finally ensure fundamental protections for America’s child farmworkers.”

“Farmworker children pay the price for the inexpensive fruits and vegetables our nation consumes with their battered bodies, lost educational opportunities, and broken dreams because they are forced to work just to make ends meet for their families,” said Ms.Read the rest

Cocoa Child Labor and Deforestation Strategy Session to be held December 18th

Cocoa Strategy Session Announcement

 

Members of the Child Labor Coalition’s Cocoa Committee are convening a strategy session in Washington, DC on Tuesday, December 18, 2018. The meeting will take place at Fairtrade America, 1400 Eye Street, NW, suite 425.

 

The goal of the Cocoa Committee’s efforts is to reduce child labor, child trafficking and deforestation in West Africa, where more than two million children help produce cocoa, a critical ingredient in the chocolate that so many of us consume.

 

Mighty Earth’s Etelle Higonnet will provide a number of updates to participants, including a discussion of efforts by the European Union to enact legislation that would work to make cocoa supply chains more responsible.… Read the rest