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Child labour flourishing in fast growing economies

 InDepth News 30 August 2019

Nearly 160 million kids aged between five and fourteen are trapped in child labour world wide. They are everywhere but invisible, toiling as domestic servants in homes, labouring behind the walls of workshops, hidden from view in plantations, handling chemicals and pesticides in agriculture, working in mines, or operating dangerous machinery. (1080 Words) - By Eleonore Meyer


According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in Sub-Saharan Africa around one in three children -- 69 million are engaged in child labour. In South Asia, they number 44 million.

A new report finds that child labour related risks are mounting in the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China -- also known as the BRICs countries.

The study by the Maplecroft risk analysts based in London analyses the most recent events, reports and published raw data to offer a detailed overview of the child labour situation in the BRICs. It is intended "to enable business and investors to identify potential supply chain and investment risks arising from child labour in the world's fastest growing economies".

Of the four countries, India has the most challenging environment for business relating to child labour, as it is ranked 1/196 countries in Maplecroft's Child Labour Index. The country has the highest number of child workers in the world, says the report released on August 16.

It says that estimates from national and international NGOs place the figures of child workers in India between 60 and 115 million. On the other hand, latest official government figures estimate 16.4 million child labourers between the ages of 5 and 14.

Of those, approximately two million are thought to work in "hazardous industries", including mining, ship breaking and manufacturing or are trafficked and exploited in the sex industry, the Maplecroft report says.

However, the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India said in a media release on August 16, 2019: "As per 2001 census, the total number of children working in various occupations including hazardous occupations in the country was 1.26 core (12.60 million).

"As a result of various welfare measures taken by the Union Government and the State Governments coupled with stricter enforcement of the provisions of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 the number of working children has declined to 90.75 lakh (9,075 million), as estimated by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2004-05."

India's Minister of Labour and Employment Mallikarjun Kharge gave this information in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) on August 16. He said the Government of India has adopted a multi-pronged strategy for eradication of child labour as follows:

- A legislative action plan in form of Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986.
- Project-based action plan in areas of high concentration of Child Labour under National Child Labour Project Scheme.
- Focus on general development programmes for the benefit of the families of Child Labour.

The above measures had yielded positive results in eradication of child labour, the Minister said.


China is rated "extreme risk" in all of Maplecroft's labour rights and protection indices with the risks for child labour, trafficking and discrimination increasing. Key findings of the report point towards the highest prevalence of child labour violations in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors of China.

"Human rights abuses associated with suppliers within the textile and electronic sectors are of particular concern following a recent cluster of suicides that occurred in a Foxconn factory based in the country," states the report.

"Child labour in the manufacturing sector is hard to identify. It often occurs down the supply chain when production is outsourced to home-workers," said Professor Alyson Warhurst, CEO of Maplecroft.

"This means that companies need to be especially diligent when it comes to auditing their supply chains. But they also need to be cognisant of the implications for children of taking them out of work where schooling is inadequate and families live in poverty."


According to the report, child labour in Brazil is prevalent in the informal, agricultural and manufacturing sectors. In 2008, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 58.7% of child workers between 5-14 years old worked in agriculture. Children working in this sector are particularly vulnerable to accidents, often involving agricultural chemicals and machinery.

The latest available statistics from the Brazilian government point out, according to Maplecroft, that in 2006 there were 273,000 accidents involving child labourers. Maplecroft's labour protection risk indices show that working conditions are worsening in Brazil.


Business in Russia is not immune from the risks associated with child labour, as the country is ranked 75/196 and "high risk" in Maplecroft's Child labour Index. While an overall estimated figure on children working is unavailable, the Federal Labour and Employment Service (FLES) found over 10,000 child labour law violations in 2008.

These children often received little pay and were discovered in dangerous working conditions in the industrial and agricultural sectors. The report also states that risks associated with working conditions in Russia are growing.

The report offers a detailed analysis about child labour in each of the BRIC countries, which provides companies with an understanding of where child labour risk exposures may lie within their supply chains.


The report includes country scores from Maplecroft's labour protection indices, analysis of the issues and sector insight, details of labour laws and ratification of ILO and other UN Conventions. Sub-national maps reveal hotspots and pinpoint incidents, particularly around economic zones. There are also stakeholder viewpoints and a chronology of key recent child labour reports.

The Child Labour in the BRICs report is part of Maplecroft's growing ethical supply chain management and human rights monitoring services.

The risk analyst has a long history of working on ethical supply chain and ethical value chain management. This includes in the development of human rights, child labour and other policies, supplier assessment questionnaires, country risk intelligence and reports, as well as monitoring programmes and compliance systems.

The company's approach to ethical supply chain management is to determine and map the intrinsic risk exposure of each supplier that is, relating to sector, product type, geography etc. This is later aligned with specific information on risk management proficiency i.e. how well these risks are managed by suppliers.

The latter is determined through either a questionnaire or audit approach, both of which build on relevant ethical supply chain initiatives such as Sedex (the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange), Ethical Trade Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council (FCS).

Originally published by InDepth News. ©

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