Created in partnership with the Helpdesk on Business & Human Rights
Industry-specific Risk Factors
While child labour is present in many industries, the following present particularly significant levels of risk. To identify potential child labour risks for other industries, companies can access the CSR Risk Check.
According to ILO 2020 estimates, around 70% of child labourers around the world — 112 million children — work in agriculture, including fishing, aquaculture and livestock rearing. Although some work on family farms is acceptable for children — provided that it is not hazardous and does not prevent them from receiving an education — many forms of child work in agricultural supply chains are not legal. The US Department of Labor’s 2020 report suggests that the most common items produced by child labour in agriculture include bananas, cattle and dairy products, cocoa, coffee, cotton, fish, rice, sugar and tobacco.
Agriculture-specific risk factors include the following:
- Many agricultural jobs are paid by the amount of produce picked, which encourages parents to bring their children along with them to help collect greater volumes.
- The agricultural sector traditionally relies heavily on migrant labour due to seasonality. This can mean the children of migrant labourers are often not in one place long enough to attend school, so work with their parents in the field instead.
- Family-based child labour is hard for companies to identify, as family farms usually feed into larger co-operatives or wholesalers and are relatively invisible within the supply chain. Furthermore, family-based child labour can be easily hidden on inspection.
- OECD-FAO, Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains: This guidance provides a common framework to help agro-businesses and investors support sustainable development and identify and prevent child labour.
- FAO, Framework on Ending Child Labour in Agriculture: This framework guides the FAO and its personnel on the integration of measures addressing child labour within FAO’s typical work, programmes and initiatives.
- FAO, Regulating Labour and Safety Standards in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Sectors: This resource provides information on international labour standards that apply in agriculture, including those on child labour.
- FAO, e-Learning Academy: Business Strategies and Public-Private Partnerships to End Child Labour in Agriculture: This course presents several business-oriented strategies to reduce child labour in agricultural supply chains.
- ILO, Child Labour in the Primary Production of Sugarcane: This report provides an overview of the sugarcane industry, including key challenges and opportunities in addressing child labour.
- Fair Labor Association, ENABLE Training Toolkit on Addressing Child Labor and Forced Labor in Agricultural Supply Chains: This toolkit guides companies on supply chain mapping and the abolition of child labour in supply chains. It contains six training modules, a facilitator’s guide, presentation slides and a participant manual.
- Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), From Farm to Table: Ensuring Fair Labour Practices in Agricultural Supply Chains: This resource provides guidelines on what investors should be looking for from companies to eliminate labour abuses in their agricultural supply chains.
- Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform: The SAI Platform guidance document on child labour facilitates the development of their members’ policies on child labour.
- Rainforest Alliance, Child Labor Guide: This guide has been developed to support the efforts of farm management to address the risks of child labour on their farms with a focus on coffee, cocoa, hazelnut and tea; however, it can be used for other crops as well.
- German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa: This multi-stakeholder initiative aims to improve the livelihood of cocoa farmers and their families, as well as to increase the proportion of certified cocoa according to sustainability standards. The Initiative’s background paper provides helpful information on child labor in the West African cocoa sector and possible solutions to address it.
Fashion and Apparel
The fashion and apparel industry may be linked to significant child labour risks. Fashion and apparel specific risk factors include the following:
- This industry features a lot of subcontracting and outsourcing, making tracing where a product was made and by whom difficult.
- Homeworking is particularly hard to monitor, as the location of homeworking is often unknown to companies and there is no way to control working hours or who is doing the work. Research from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that the activities often outsourced to homeworkers are usually finishing tasks, such as beading, embroidery or adding tassels — activities that require delicate handiwork as opposed to being produced by machinery in a factory.
- There is a significant gender aspect in this regard, with studies showing most homeworkers in the apparel industry are women and girls (see Gender Equality issue).
- OECD, Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment & Footwear Sector: The guidance aims to help fashion and apparel businesses implement the due diligence recommendations contained in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in order to avoid and address the potential negative impacts of their activities and supply chains on a range of human rights, including child labour.
- Fair Wear Foundation, The Face of Child Labour: Stories from Asia’s Garment Sector: This report seeks to promote a greater understanding of the realities of child labour by presenting interviews with children who were found working in Asia’s garment sector.
- Fair Labor Association, Child Labor in Cotton Supply Chains: Collaborative Project on Human Rights in Turkey: The report explores cotton and garment supply chains in Turkey and provides recommendations for companies and other stakeholders on eliminating child labour from cotton supply chains.
- Fair Labor Association, Children’s Lives at Stake: Working Together to End Child Labour in Agra Footwear Production: The report demonstrates a high prevalence of child labour in shoe production in Agra, India, and provides recommendations for brands, including on enhancing their subcontracting policies.
- SOMO, Branded Childhood: How Garment Brands Contribute to Low Wages, Long Working Hours, School Dropout and Child Labour in Bangladesh: This report illustrates a link between child labour and low wages for adult workers and provides a series of concrete recommendations for brands and retailers sourcing from Bangladesh on combatting child labour.
- Save the Children, In the Interest of the Child? Child Rights and Homeworkers in Textile and Handicraft Supply Chains in Asia: This study provides data on both the positive and negative impact of home-based work and work in small workshops on child rights and identifies best practices to improve child rights in such settings.
- UNPRI, An Investor Briefing on the Apparel Industry: Moving the Needle on Labour Practices: The resource guides institutional investors on how to identify negative human rights impacts in the apparel industry, including those pertaining to child labour.
- The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, Bündnisziele: Sozialstandards (German): The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles — a multi-stakeholder initiative with about 135 members from business, Government, civil society, unions, and standards organizations — has formulated social goals, including on child labour, that all members recognize by joining the Partnership.
- Green Button: Certification label for sustainable textiles run by the German Government with ban on forced and child labour as one of the certification criteria.
Child labour takes place in parts of the informal artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) industry and has been associated with the mining of “conflict minerals” — tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold — among other minerals such as cobalt. ASM work can be dangerous and personal protective equipment (PPE) is rarely provided. The US Department of Labor’s 2020 report suggests that coal, granite, gravel, diamonds and mica are all associated with child labour.
Mining-specific risk factors include the following:
- Children are often involved in digging as they can get into tighter spaces to mine, or in carrying mined products like gems or metals between extraction sites and refining/washing/filtering sites.
- Minerals mined by children can end up in global supply chains, including those of automobiles, construction, cosmetics, electronics, and jewellery. For example, the increased production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries has led to the growing demand for cobalt — an essential battery input. Approximately 70% of cobalt (as of January 2021) comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world where ASM activity is common, thus increasing child labour risks.
- OECD, Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas: The OECD guidance identifies the worst forms of child labour as a serious human rights abuse associated with the extraction, transport or trade of minerals. The guidance has practical actions for companies to identify and address the worst forms of child labour in mineral supply chains and conduct related due diligence.
- ILO, Child Labour in Mining and Global Supply Chains: This brief report outlines the scope of child labour in ASM, risks to children’s health and welfare, and recommendations for businesses on addressing this issue.
- ILO, Mapping Interventions Addressing Child Labour and Working Conditions in Artisanal Mineral Supply Chains: This report provides a high-level review of projects and initiatives that aim to address child labour in the ASM sector across different minerals.
- UNICEF, Child Rights and Mining Toolkit: Best Practices for Addressing Children’s Issues in Large-Scale Mining: This toolkit is designed to help industrial miners design and implement social and environmental strategies (from impact assessment to social investment) that respect and advance children’s rights, including the elimination of child labour.
- SOMO, Global Mica Mining and the Impact on Children’s Rights: This report outlines mica production globally and identifies direct or indirect links to child labour.
- SOMO, Beauty and a Beast: Child Labour in India for Sparkling Cars and Cosmetics: This report focuses on illegal mica mining in India. It outlines the due diligence actions of several multinational companies and provides further recommendations for mica mining, processing and/or using companies.
- Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), Responsible Jewellery Council Standards Guidance: This guidance provides a suggested approach for RJC members to implement the mandatory requirements of the RJC Code of Practice (COP), including the elimination of child labour in mining operations.
- Responsible Minerals Initiative, Material Change: A Study of Risks and Opportunities for Collective Action in the Materials Supply Chains of the Automotive and Electronics Industries: This report examines responsible sourcing of materials in the automotive and electronics industries, including association with child labour. Responsible Minerals Initiative also has other helpful resources for mining companies on various steps of human rights due diligence.
The electronics manufacturing industry poses child labour risks, as well as risks for young workers. Industry-specific risk factors include the following:
- In several Asian and South-East Asian countries, there are government programmes with major businesses for students and young workers to get work experience. However, there are reports of these programmes being abused, with student and young workers having their IDs faked so they can work longer and more hazardous hours.
- Electronics companies may be linked to child labour via their mineral supply chains given that some of the minerals and metals used to manufacture electronic components can be associated with significant child labour risks (i.e. during the mining process) — see the section on mining.
- Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), Student Workers Management Toolkit: This toolkit helps human resources and other managers support responsible recruitment and management of student workers in electronics manufacturing.
- Responsible Minerals Initiative, Material Change: A Study of Risks and Opportunities for Collective Action in the Materials Supply Chains of the Automotive and Electronics Industries: This report examines responsible sourcing of materials in the automotive and electronics industries, including association with child labour.
- SOMO, Gold from Children’s Hands: Use of Child-Mined Gold by the Electronics Sector: This report outlines the magnitude and seriousness of child labour in the artisanal gold mining sector and provides insight into the supply chain linkages with the electronics industry.
Travel and Tourism
Businesses in the travel and tourism industry (e.g. hotels, restaurants and tour companies) may be linked to the risks of child labour. The aviation industry also has significant risks of facilitating child trafficking. Travel and tourism specific risk factors include the following:
- Children in developing countries are often put to work selling tourist gifts or supporting family businesses like restaurants. Although this type of work is acceptable for children — provided that it is not hazardous and does not prevent them from receiving an education — it may also constitute child labour if it does preclude children’s school attendance.
- Child sex tourism does exist, and the trafficking or use of children for sexual activities for tourists occurs around the world.
Businesses in other sectors that use travel and tourism services as part of their business activities or in their supply chains may also be linked to child exploitation.
- ILO, Guidelines on Decent Work and Socially Responsible Tourism: These guidelines provide practical information for developing and implementing policies and programmes to promote sustainable tourism and strengthen labour protection, including the protection of children from exploitation.
- ChildSafe Movement and G Adventures Inc, Child Welfare and the Travel Industry: Global Good Practice Guidelines: These guidelines provide information on child welfare issues throughout the travel industry, as well as guidance for businesses on preventing all forms of exploitation and abuse of children that could be related to the tourism industry.
- International Tourism Partnership, The Know How Guide: Human Rights and the Hotel Industry: This guide provides an overview of human rights (including child labour) within hospitality, with guidance on developing a human rights policy, performing due diligence and addressing any adverse human rights impacts.
- Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism e.V., Human Rights in Tourism: An Implementation Guideline for Tour Operators: This guideline aims to assist tour operators in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and includes references to child labour.