In Viewpoint, we bring your attention to what we feel are the most pressing issues of the day, as well as bringing you up to date with what is going on with the Child Labor Coalition.

Ending Child Labor in Mica Mines in India and Madagascar

By Katarzyna Rybarczyk 

Most people use products containing mica daily, without realizing what the story behind their production is. Mica is a mineral commonly found in products such as cosmetics, paints, and electronics. For most people living in the West, mica is simply something that makes these products shiny. However, extracting mica is often linked to the worst forms of child labor.

India and Madagascar are the two largest exporters of sheet mica globally, with most mica mining happening in illegal mines. The two countries are also the most associated with using children to extract the mineral.

Areas where mica mines are located struggle with high poverty rates, so mining mica is often the only thing that lets families put food on the table and survive. With families struggling to earn a living, children often have to supplement their parents’ income.

As mica mining is unregulated and, for the most part, thrives in hiding, there are many dangers associated with it.

The scale of the problem

The majority of illegal mica mines in India are located in just two states Bihar and Jharkhand, which are among India’s most impoverished. The governance there is weak, so the industry is subject to few, if any, regulations and labor exploitation of both adults and children occurs frequently.

It is estimated that 22,000 children work in mica mines in Jharkhand and Bihar, but as mines that employ children do not report it, giving the exact numbers is impossible.

According to the findings of the US Department of Labor, in Madagascar, around 10,000 children work in the mica sector.… Read the rest

Surging Child Labor Demands Government Action New Global Numbers Show Backsliding Even Before Covid-19 Pandemic

 

 
Ahead of the World Day Against Child Labor this weekend, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have just released shocking new figures. They estimate that 160 million children were engaged in child labor in 2020. This is 8.4 million more children than since the last estimate issued in 2016, and the first time in two decades that the numbers have increased. Previously, countries globally had made impressive strides, reducing child labor by nearly 40 percent between 2000 and 2016.

Alarmingly, these numbers pre-date the Covid-19 pandemic, which is forcing even more children into exploitative and dangerous child labor. Human Rights Watch, Friends of the Nation, and the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights recently interviewed dozens of children in Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda to document the impact of the pandemic on their lives. They told us how their parents lost jobs when businesses closed, couldn’t get to markets to sell their goods, or lost customers during lockdowns. Their schools closed, and with little or no government assistance, the children felt they had no choice but to work to help their families survive.The children worked at brick kilns, carpet factories, gold mines, stone quarries, fisheries, in construction, and in agriculture. Others sold food or goods on the street. They described working long hours for meager wages, often under dangerous conditions. One 12-year-old girl crushed rocks at a stone quarry for seven hours a day.

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Global Civil Society Statement on Child Labour in Cocoa, June 12th, 2021

Today, June 12th, is the International Day against Child Labour. On this day, as a large group of civil society organisations working on human rights in the cocoa sector across the world, we urgently call on chocolate & cocoa companies and governments to start living up to decades-old promises. The cocoa sector must come with ambitious plans to develop transparent and accountable solutions for current and future generations of children in cocoa communities.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the chocolate industry’s promise to end child labour in the cocoa sector of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, a commitment they made under the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol and renewed again with the 2010 Framework of Action. Furthermore, it is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

This year should have been a landmark in the fight against child labour in cocoa. Instead, the cocoa sector as a whole has been conspicuously quiet on this topic.

Child labour is still a reality on West African cocoa farms, and there is strong evidence that forced labour continues in the sector as well. Recent reports – such as Ghana’s GLSS 7 survey and the study of the University of Chicago commissioned by the United States government – show that close to 1.5 million children are engaged in hazardous or age-inappropriate work on cocoa farms in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The vast majority of these child labourers are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, such as carrying heavy loads, working with dangerous tools, and increasing exposure to harmful agrochemicals.

After two decades of rhetoric, voluntary initiatives, and pilot projects, it is clearer than ever that ambitious, sector-wide action is needed, coupled with binding regulations, to address both child labour and the poverty that lies at its root.

These solutions must include regulations for mandatory human rights due diligence for companies operating in all major cocoa consuming countries, including avenues for legal remedy in those companies’ home countries. We note with interest the developments around regulations in the EU, although the announced delays are concerning. We also observe that the United States – the world’s number one cocoa consuming country – is particularly lagging in regulatory developments on this issue.

The industry, however, cannot use a lack of regulation as an excuse not to shoulder their own responsibility. As such, every chocolate and cocoa company should have a system in place that monitors and remediates child labour in all of their value chains with a child labour risk. The impact of these systems must be communicated publicly and transparently in a way that enables meaningful participation and access to remedy for workers and their representatives.

In parallel, effective partnerships between producer and consumer countries are needed to work on the necessary enabling environment. These must be developed in a much more inclusive manner than previous attempts, bringing in civil society organisations, independent trade unions, local communities, and farmer representatives. Adequate resources must be provided to enable these local actors to participate as equals in the development and implementation of solutions.

Child labour can only be effectively tackled if its root causes are also adequately addressed. As such, the cocoa sector must ensure that child labour approaches are deeply embedded into realistic and ambitious strategies to achieve a living income for all cocoa households. Such strategies must include the payment of fair and just remuneration at the farm gate; prices need to be sufficient to provide a living income. There are clear calculations available for Living Income Reference Prices, which are not even close to being met.

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Ending the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers

By Katarzyna Rybarczyk

Katarzyna Rybarczyk

Around the world children as young as ten years old fight in armed conflicts. According to the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1999, recruiting children as soldiers is one of the worst forms of child labour. Despite the practice representing a horrendous violation of their fundamental rights, however, currently, more than 300,000 children are members of armed groups and forces.

After being recruited by abduction or coercion, children are terrorised into obedience and deployed in direct combat, or assigned support and logistical roles. The recruitment of children under eighteen is forbidden by international law, but regardless the crime thrives in several regions of the world ravaged by war.

The UN’s Children and armed conflict report, released in June 2019, identified twenty countries where cases of child recruitment as soldiers have been verified. The report named the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen as the states where the problem is the most serious. Amongst them, the highest number of conscripted children could be observed in Somalia with 2,300 child soldiers, followed by Nigeria with 1,947 of them.

Methods of Recruitment

In countries where law enforcement is poor and the political situation unstable, children are vulnerable to forced recruitment. The majority of child soldiers is recruited by non-state extremist groups, which deceive the youth by showing them false images of prosperity and happiness within the organisations’ ranks. These groups specifically target and indoctrinate children because they are easy to manipulate and control.

In societies where children are being recruited as soldiers, they and their families often live in poverty. Lured by the promises of good salaries in militant groups, children volunteer to join to help their loved ones. On top of that, tired of living in conflict zones, children sometimes think that joining armed groups will provide them with shelter, protection and safety. Often, they become child soldiers to escape maltreatment at home or abuses by state’s forces.

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