Child labour in supply chains - it's everyone's business

We are lucky to live in a country where children are afforded their human right to an education – in fact it is a legal requirement for Australian kids to attend school. We have a legal minimum working age, strict work and safety requirements and the right to be paid a minimum wage.

Unfortunately not all children are so lucky. There are still 168 million children involved in child labour in a range of industries – from agriculture to manufacturing, services to construction, and textiles to fashion.

So why is this still happening?

Supply chains.

In industries, such as fashion, the demand for products is huge and there is an overwhelming emphasis on quick supply. This growing culture of fast fashion and consumerism is pushing companies to find ever-cheaper sources of labour in an effort to keep costs down and profits up.

The reality is that children make good sources of cheap labour because they slip under the radar. They are seen as low-skilled workers without a voice, and so they are easy targets. Employers of children get away with it because supply chains have become incredibly complex and it is hard for companies to control every stage of production. Even if big brands appear to condemn acts of exploitation on the surface, it is hard for them and their consumers to know what is happening further down the line.

That is why the focus of the ILO’s 2016 World Day against Child Labour is on supply chains. Its aim is to encourage enterprises to be vigilant in ensuring that their supply chains are free from child labour, and to encourage consumers to hold companies accountable for their actions.

What can we do to help?

The power we have as consumers is greater than you might think. No company will continue a practice or product that you the consumer will not buy. If we can demand greater transparency in supply chains and encourage companies to know exactly who is making their products we can help put an end to child labour.

One way you can do this is by supporting VGen’s #EndChildLabour campaign which is encouraging young Australians to ask … what are we buying into? When we purchase a cup of coffee from our favourite cafe, or a new t-shirt from that brand we really like, our money is potentially supporting the systems that fuel child labour. By purchasing more ethical products and making informed decisions about which products you buy you can change this.

There are heaps of resources out there to help you make more ethical decisions. Check these out:

Why not tell others about the issue and about how they can be part of the solution by using the hashtag #EndChildLabour.

- Written by Courtney, NSW Communications Officer