The job of a child is to grow, learn and play. But millions of children worldwide will only know the inside of a factory. In recognition of International End Child Labor Day, I have devised a strategy for consumers looking to avoid supporting child labor in their purchases. LABEL is an easy way for us to do our part to fight child labor around the globe. It all starts with checking the label!
Learn about the issue of child labor.
The International Labor Organization estimates that 211 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged in forced child labor, the majority involving exposures to hazardous conditions. Child labor is the direct result not only of poverty, but also our demand for low-cost goods. It is our responsibility as consumers to be educated and take necessary steps toward preventing the support of child labor through our purchases.
Avoid products known to be produced by child labor in certain countries.
The US Department of Labor produces an annual list of products they have found to be produced through forced child labor in specified countries. I tried to abstract the more commonly purchased items and the more common countries of origin.
Carpets: Afghanistan, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan
Cotton: Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Paraguay, Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Garments: Argentina, China, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Thailand
Shoes: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia
Buy local, made in USA, made in Canada, or made in Europe.
I propose that buying more American products is a viable beginning step in defeating child labor. Child labor exists in some form in every country, including the US. But buying from countries with strict child labor laws, such as the US, Canada and European countries offers some reassurance that children were not exploited in the production of a product.
Educate others about how to address this problem.
The key to ending the cycle of poverty that fuels child labor is education. We need to increase awareness and put pressure on the companies we purchase from to improve their labor practices. If parents in third world countries can make enough to support their families, their kids can go to school instead of work. And education for kids means better opportunities for their future.
Look at labels for these certifications.Rug Mark/Good Weave- third party organization monitoring carpet factories
Fair Trade Certified- product was made in accordance with fair trade policies, including no child labor
UNITE-HERE- Product was made by unionized workers
Unfortunately, there is no official label to designate a child labor-free product. This is another example of why it is so important to increase awareness. We as consumers need to speak up in stores, and to corporations, and voice our concerns about the labor that goes into the products we buy. And remember, check the “LABEL”!
What are you doing to try to avoid buying goods made through child labor? What do you think is the best way to tackle this global problem?