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Fairtrade calls for action child labour

More than 151 million children are caught up in child labour world wide: Fairtrade calls for action at a local level


This World Day Against Child Labour (June 12) is a sharp reminder for New Zealanders to demand businesses eradicate child labour from their supply chains as part of a move towards a fairer world, says Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand CEO Molly Harriss Olson.

Children as young as five are still in child labour, despite the efforts of the global community through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, almost half of child labourers around the world are under 11 years old.

“Everyone has the power to ask questions about the products they buy, and this is a good opportunity to remind retailers that if they wouldn’t have a five- or six-year-old operating a coffee machine, they shouldn’t tolerate children picking the coffee in the first place,” Ms Harriss Olson says.

According to the International Labour Organization more than 151 million children are caught up in child labour, and almost half of them are exposed to the worst forms of hazardous or exploitative labour, such as slavery, sex or drug trafficking, or being used as child soldiers.

That means 151 million children are being denied the chance to go to school, play or just be children.

It is the agriculture sector where most children work illegally, with an estimated 108 million child labourers worldwide.

“The global supply chains for many products that Kiwis use every day, such as chocolate, tea, coffee, bananas and cotton, are frequently opaque,” Ms Harriss Olson says. “This makes it hard for consumers to understand the extent of their entanglement with child exploitation. Many of us may be supporting child labour without realising it, even though the thought of exploiting children would be mortifying to most – if not all – Kiwis.

“If a primary school-aged child here was stocking supermarket shelves with heavy boxes of chocolate bars for hours on end or sitting behind a sewing machine all day at a shopping mall’s alteration stand we would want to know why, but if it’s at the other end of the supply chain too often we fail to act.”

Unlike Australia, Canada and the UK, the New Zealand Government has yet to introduce a Modern Slavery Act, which means the responsibility to check that goods and services were made ethically is still heavily reliant on the consumer, Ms Harriss Olson adds.

“Changing the law in New Zealand would require businesses to show leadership on the issues, transforming their supply chains and helping to eliminate child exploitation.

“But each of us can also play an important role in eradicating child labour.

“Each time we take bite of Fairtrade chocolate, purchase a cup of Fairtrade coffee or eat a Fairtrade banana, we are taking a stand against child labour,” Ms Harriss Olson concludes.

ENDS

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