In Africa, more than one in five children are forced to work in mines, quarries, and farms. However, other people have better working conditions.
Any business does not want child labour in its supply chain. However, with an estimated 168 million children working in some capacity worldwide, including 12 million in manufacturing and industry and 98 million in agriculture, it is an unsettling reality of the globalisation of commodities that corporations cannot afford to ignore.
Reading the most recent annual report on products created with child labour from the US Department of Labor is disturbing. The research claims that child labour is still used to produce many of the world’s most popular goods, including sugarcane, cotton, rubber, tobacco, coffee, and bananas.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that more than one in five children in Africa are employed against their will in quarries, farms, and mines. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of child labourers in the world, with 59 million children between the ages of five and 17 engaged in the most hazardous jobs.
According to Mark Dummett, business and human rights researcher at Amnesty International, companies that get materials, products, and services from the area must acknowledge that they cannot avoid this problem.
He claims that many of the items and commodities that we buy and consume today are produced using child labour. “Brands don’t want to be connected with the picture of a child in a mine, factory, or field, but in a time of greater transparency, accountability, and traceability, to avoid it is not only doing a disservice to the children involved, it is also harmful for the business.”
On March 18, 2016, young people were seen constructing a boat in the Nyanyano fishing village in Ghana.
The recent laws in the UK and the US, according to Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, is a blatant indication that the pendulum is shifting against companies that fail to act quickly to address the possibility of having child labour connected with their brand.
With the UK’s Modern Slavery Act and laws like Barack Obama’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which forbids imports created with child labour, it won’t be enough for firms to claim that the issue is intractable, he asserts.
The bad reputation of chocolate-Child labour
Cocoa is one industry that is now inextricably related to child labour in west Africa. Since a series of exposés over ten years ago that severely damaged the reputation of the chocolate industry and later prompted a wave of lawsuits from incensed consumers against chocolate companies, the industry has fought to end widespread child labour in farms across west Africa.
According to Cathy Pieters, head of the Cocoa Life initiative at chocolate giant Mondelez, “there has been a lot of catastrophic communication around child labour in the cocoa business, where we have gotten a lot of attention that other commodities probably haven’t.”
Even though children are still working in dangerous conditions on cocoa plantations in west Africa more than ten years after the reports of child slavery in the chocolate industry, Pieters says cross-industry initiatives like the International Cocoa Initiative show that the industry is committed to finding solutions.
The focus of many corporate initiatives, including the Cocoa Life programme, is shifting away from conventional solutions like school construction and education towards agricultural production and community financing in an industry like cocoa that has been forced to invest heavily in understanding the challenges it faces with child labour.
People on the ground are wary of being accused of child labour, and everyone wants the best for their children, so Pieters thinks it can be dangerous to approach the situation with a finger-pointing mentality. “Community involvement, assisting cocoa producers in obtaining higher yields, and for people on the ground to assume that responsibility will solve the issue.”
Pieters asserts that the industry must continue to collaborate in order to discover solutions, even though she thinks the new era of corporate transparency will help the industry’s efforts to combat child labour.
According to her, “We know that, under the appropriate circumstances, a child helping on a farm is not necessarily a negative thing, for example, after school or on weekends, for restricted hours and safely as part of the family business.”
“What we as an industry need to do is understand that there is a distinction between that sort of child labour and a youngster assisting their family on a farm, and we urgently need to stamp out the worst forms of child labour and trafficking. We need to be ready to handle these complicated issues.
Western Africa’s Worst Child Labor Practices
The Ivory Coast’s primary agricultural export and over half of its overall exports is cocoa, a commodity crop grown mostly for export in Western Africa. Due to the colonial tradition of the chocolate industry, European chocolate businesses that wanted to expand cocoa in regions with free or inexpensive labour were the ones who initially brought it to Western Africa. The demand for low-cost cocoa has grown over time as the chocolate market has grown.
Most cocoa farmers earn less than $1 per day, which is regarded as extremely low income. They usually take advantage of child labour as a result in order to keep their prices low. Several of them are referred to be “the worst sorts of child labour” by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
According to the criteria, these behaviours are “likely to harm the health, safety, or morality of children.” 2.1 million children work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and the majority of them are presumably subjected to the harshest forms of child labour.
Because of the tremendous poverty in which they live, many children in Western Africa begin working at a young age to help support their families.
Some juveniles end up on cocoa fields because they are in need of labour and are told by traffickers that the work is lucrative. Other children are sold by their own families, who are unaware of the dangerous working conditions and lack of educational prospects, to human traffickers or farm owners.
Traffickers routinely abduct young children from rural areas in neighbouring African countries like Burkina Faso and Mali, two of the world’s poorest countries. In one town in Burkina Faso, nearly every mother has experienced having a child trafficked onto a cocoa farm. The next step is for traffickers to sell children to cocoa farmers.
In Ghana, reporters posing as cocoa growers captured evidence of child traffickers who charged them $34 for each child.
Social workers set these youngsters free and then reunited them with their families.
After being taken to the cocoa estates, the youngsters might never again see their families. Because the child’s trafficker sold them to work in cocoa fields for a certain amount of time, it is doubtful that the child will be permitted to return home.
African nations must address informality, broaden social protection to everyone, boost the legal system’s ability to enforce the law, increase access to free, fundamental education, and foster social discussion.
Coronavirus – Crisis
The economic conditions of nations that produce cocoa have worsened due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its effects on the world economy.
In the initial months of the epidemic, child labour on the cocoa estates in Ghana and Ivory Coast increased by an estimated 15-20%, most likely as a result of a combination of lower farmer revenues and school cancellations. Due to their lack of access to healthcare, those who work as children or who are slaves are considerably more susceptible to the infection.
The COVID-19 situation has made the economy less secure, upended supply networks, and significantly hindered manufacturing. Due to school closures, parents’ considerable financial losses during the epidemic, the lack of essential social protection, and rising poverty, child labour is predicted to expand in Africa, where 85% of employment is in the informal sector.
The chocolate business has not adequately responded to the pandemic. Chocolate firms’ contributions to COVID-19 relief efforts, like the money they’ve spent fighting child labour and slavery in general, only make up a small portion of their overall sales. For instance, Hershey’s donations in the first few months accounted for just 0.05% of their earnings. [18, 70]
We Are Responsibile
In an effort to address the underlying factors behind “the worst forms of child labour” and slavery in the chocolate industry, numerous government and non-governmental organisation (NGO) projects have been created. However, these initiatives won’t be successful until the chocolate industry starts to support paying cocoa farmers a living wage genuinely.
Consumers are crucial in reducing the inequities in the food sector. The most severe abuses occur worldwide, making it difficult to address the issue of child slavery on cocoa fields adequately; yet, this does not absolve us of duty. Many of our lives now routinely include chocolate, but it’s crucial to keep in mind that it is still a luxury.
Why is there a high rate of child labour in Africa?
Lack of resources, along with other issues including credit restrictions, economic shocks, school quality, and family attitudes towards education, are all linked to child labour, in addition to poverty.
Is there child labour in Africa?
The majority of child labourers are found in Africa, where it is estimated that 72.1 million children work as minors there, 31.5 million of them in dangerous jobs. The fight against child labour looks to have reached a standstill in Africa.
What connection does child labour have to the production of chocolate?
It takes a lot of labour to harvest and process cacao, and many of these impoverished farmers simply do not have the money or family labour to make cacao farming profitable. In order to save money, companies turn to kids, sometimes as young as 5, but usually between 10 and 12 years old.
When did slavery in the cocoa sector begin?
The number of slaves used in chocolate manufacturing expanded as the industry became more globally integrated. Between 10 and 15 million slaves were shipped over the Atlantic to the Americas between the years 1500 and 1900.
What goods are made with child labour?
Sugarcane, cotton, coffee, tobacco, livestock, rice, and fish are among the most popular agricultural products on the list. Bricks, clothes, textiles, footwear, carpets, and fireworks are the most common items made in the manufacturing industry. Gold, coal, and diamonds are the most prevalent materials found in mined or quarried items.