June 2018 Report

A boy and his father threading tobacco leaves in Santiago, Nayarit. Photograph: César Rodríguez for the Guardian

A boy and his father threading tobacco leaves in Santiago, Nayarit. Photograph: César Rodríguez for the Guardian

Tobacco pickers in Mexico often come from the poorest regions and are some of the most marginalised, looking for seasonal work in fertile states like Nayarit, in the north-west of Mexico. Previous exposés have revealed widespread child labour, and schemes were put in place to improve the situation. However as recently as March this year, a visit showed 7 out of 10 plantations had children working. The government paid out $500million to 6.1 million families in 2016, but poverty still drags families and children back to these plantations. 

Tiyamike Phiri, 14, at work on a tobacco plot in Kasungu district, Malawi. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Tiyamike Phiri, 14, at work on a tobacco plot in Kasungu district, Malawi. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The world's leading cigarette companies may be using tobacco from farms with labour conditions and human rights problems, from research carried out in the last 5 years. Many of these children from tobacco firms worldwide complain of nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness while they worked – all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, or green tobacco sickness. 

Brazil has established penalties for child labor violations – not just for farmers, but for the companies purchasing their lea, as well as provided extensive information to tobacco farmers about the hazards of nicotine and pesticide exposure, particularly for children. Which has seen positive changes, although not eliminating child labour completely. 

The tobacco companies say they are doing all they can, have instructed their suppliers not to allow it and fund programmes to take children out of the fields and put them in school. But it isn’t working. In fact, the ILO says, child labour is increasing.



Combating child labour through unconditional cash transfer

Child labour in Nigeria is largely fueled by poverty, rapid urbanisation, lack of regulations - and money earned by child family members forms a significant proportion of families' incomes. United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) introduced an unconditional initiative called the Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) supported by UK Department for International Development (DFID). Since its inception, there has been a tremendous surge in the reduction of girl-child labour, resulting in an increase in enrollment of children especially girls, in benefiting communities.

Child labour in Sabah: Children only accompanying elders at work - The Sun Malaysia

It was reported that around 200,000 children aged five to 18 were found to be working, including helping out their parents in various sectors in Sabah. "They were found to be involved in various plantation activities, such as plucking oil palm, harvesting, cleaning and others." The Ministry of Human Resources concluded that there was no compulsion on the children to work, explained that the children and youths were only seen to be helping out their parents at work, and not viewed as child labourers. But is this really the reality of the situation? Some of us may not agree. 

Since Rana Plaza, Have Fast Fashion Retailers Actually Materially Improved Conditions For Their Workers? - Huffington Post

What do fast fashion retailers think about the environmental impact of the attitude of treating clothing as cheap and disposable? Their pricing structure and collection release cycles has resulted in the fashion becoming the world’s second most polluting industry, with billions of tonnes of discarded garments in landfill. Most companies still operate in broadly the same way that enabled the Rana Plaza disaster to occur, relying on auditing for basic legal compliance. Fashion brands had repeatedly audited the factories in the Rana Plaza complex, but the risks went either undetected or ignored. 

It is also increasingly prevalent that brands might have a lengthy rules on child labour within their supplier code of conduct but are they put into practice? 426 fashion industry workers died in “workplace incidents” in 2017 alone, with workers’ rights remaining extremely compromised and any form of workers union and protest against unfair treatment can be highly risky. 

Are consumers any better off with fast fashion or would they be wearing higher quality clothing, saving money in cost per wear, reducing their impact on the environment and supporting fairly paid and ethically treated workers in the fashion industry by opting to #FckFastFashion?

Child Labour: the true cost of chocolate production - Raconteur

Who doesn't love chocolate, but it may come at great cost to those who produce the cocoa, notably child labourers in West Africa, to who chocolate is a source not of pleasure but of hard, sometimes hazardous, work. Poverty is often the primary reason, with farmers hit by slumps in global prices, as well as their plots being too small, too old and agricultural methods too dated to make farming profitable. 

A number of businesses and charities have been working to address this through an array of initiatives from building schools to training farmers in more efficient growing methods. Nestlé is experimenting with a similar strategy and are moving from a strict compliance approach, to a Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System which seeks to get farmers to self-declare instances of child labour and then take actions within the community itself to prevent it - a more collaborative approach keeping the issue visible and stops it being buried.

Child labour in agriculture is on the rise, driven by conflict and disasters - Relief Web

There has been a steady decline in child labour but recent reports show that child labour in agriculture is increasing, driven by conflict and climate-induced disasters resulting in forced migration. It is very challenging to eradicate child labour in agriculture, due to rural poverty and the concentration of child labour in the informal economy and unpaid family labour. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and its partners are trying to end the dependence of family farms and enterprises on child labour through improving skills of small family farmers, providing access to credit, and implementing sustainable agricultural practices to improve productivity and make farms viable enough to employ adults in decent work.