Preventing child labor in supply chains

The New York Times’ recent investigative report, “Alone and Exploited: Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.,” starkly highlighted the clear and present risk of child labor in the United States (US). Unfortunately, the story is one that is repeated across the globe.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), one out of 10 children worldwide — 160 million children ages 5 to 17 — are engaged in some form of child labor. About half perform hazardous work that places their health, safety, or moral development at risk. Migrant children, often poor and far from home, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

While governments are responsible for creating and enforcing laws that protect children, companies of all sizes and in all countries are responsible for ensuring that they know the risks of child labor in their own operations and in all tiers of their supply chains and take proactive steps to address those risks.

To address the risk of child labor in both manufacturing and agricultural operations, companies should:

  • Commit to aligning policies with international standards on child labor;
  • Recognize that local laws may not adequately protect children;
  • Build awareness among staff, subcontractors, and supply chain partners;
  • Actively monitor facilities;
  • Maintain required permits and parental consent documentation;
  • Develop special considerations for the employment of young workers;
  • Implement a system to identify and document proof of age for young workers; and
  • Take steps for remediation and case management.

Read our detailed guidance on the steps companies can take to protect children from exploitation or harm in both manufacturing and agricultural operations in any country.