Ten percent of the world’s children, 152 Million, are used as laborers. While the global supply chain has lowered costs and increased efficiencies, it has also helped mask child labor violations in several industries. Businesses have a responsibility to build ethical supply chains that respect human rights
“These practices create not only human rights abuses, but they create an uneven playing field, making it hard for businesses that play by the rules to compete. A country’s failure to stop the exploitation of its labor force undermines the well-being of American workers and other workers around the world,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta writes in his foreword to the report.
Globally, the International Labor Organization’s minimum age convention sets 15 years of age as the minimum threshold for regular employment. An important step in fighting child labor is identifying its role in the supply chains. The chain often ends with unaware consumers buying goods that are produced by children.
Experts at the ILO have identified multiple factors that cause the use of child labor. Families under severe financial stress. They need to have the extra income gained from sending a child to work. Governments have a weak enforcement of child labor laws and don’t prosecute labor violations. Children end up working instead of pursuing an education. According to the United States Department of Labor, children contribute to the production of 139 goods from 75 countries. The Labor Department has identified industries where child labor is most common, including, Agriculture: Growing cotton, sugarcane, coffee, and tobacco, Manufacturing: Making bricks, garments, and textiles, Mining/quarrying: Extracting gold, coal, and diamonds.
Companies that use child labor go to great lengths to cover it up. Many businesses hire compliance auditors to visit farms and factories to ensure suppliers are following the law. However, auditors can only review the worksites they’re aware of. It’s quite common for child labor operations to work as subcontractors to stay hidden from authorities or customers. While auditors visit worksites to confirm compliance, the addition of an analytics program designed to identify trends and correlations that may not be apparent to a human being are a crucial supplemental strategy. Advanced algorithms sort through information on violations by region or product, bringing potential risks to the attention of compliance professionals. Keeping child labor out of your supply chain hurts criminals where it counts i.e. their profits. Removing the financial incentive to employ cheap child labor can go a long way towards eliminating modern slavery and the exploitation of children.