Child labour risk persists in global manufacturing supply chain

Despite high levels of economic growth, progress on child labour has stalled in the manufacturing countries most entwined with global supply chains, according to the latest data from global risk analysts at Verisk Maplecroft. Its Child Labour Index, which measures the frequency and severity of violations; a country’s adoption of laws and international treaties; and its ability and will to enforce them, shows that the major manufacturing hubs of China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia have registered no tangible improvement in the ranking of 198 countries since 2016.

Agriculture, manufacturing, apparel, construction, mining and hospitality all pose high levels of risk in China and India. Trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children are also severe issues.

While China and India are categorised as ‘high risk’ overall, Maplecroft points out that they are scored as ‘extreme risk’ in the section of the Child Labour Index measuring the frequency and severity of violations. Both have signed up to all relevant international treaties, which improves their position in the ranking, but unlike China, India’s domestic laws fall short of ILO standards on the legal working age of 15, and its enforcement capabilities lack significant resources and coverage. These factors ensure that South Asia’s largest economy is among the 25% worst performing countries globally.

“The economic momentum of many countries is yet to trickle down to the poorest in society and any meaningful headway on labour rights issues, including child labour, remains elusive,” says human rights data analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, Oscar Larsson. “Child labour is still prevalent across many sectors – if countries aren’t taking action it is up to companies to see they have the tools to make sure it’s not happening under their watch.”

At a global level, Maplecroft identifies 27 countries – which account for roughly 12% of the world’s total population, or 900 million people – as being at ‘extreme risk’.

The 10 worst performing countries in 2019 are, in order: North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Sudan, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Chad and Mozambique.

Worryingly for organisations with extended supply chains, this trend is echoed across many manufacturing countries, including Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam, where the high risk of children being exploited or having to work through necessity remains unchanged.

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