Companies should not run away if child labour is involved
According to UNICEF, 168 million children worldwide work as child labourers, 85 million of them in hazardous conditions. It is impossible to say how often it occurs in production chains of products that we buy in the Netherlands, because there are no real figures.
Since 2019, the Child Labor Due Diligence Act has been in force in the Netherlands, which obliges companies to detect, prevent and tackle child labor in their production chain. For example, many companies ask independent third parties to conduct audits and sort out their supply chains.
When child labor comes to light, the reaction of companies is often that they no longer want to buy anything from the relevant supplier. That seems good, but for poor families it means that there is no money left for food. It’s really about basic necessities. If a factory closes because of child labour, children are also the victims.
It is better for companies to start the dialogue and, for example, agree that children will gradually work fewer hours per week and go to school more hours per week. That is only possible if you also look at the opportunities and income of the parents. Only when they have work that has a decent living wage, the children can go to school.
Child labor is a complex problem that requires a systematic solution between employers, parents, schools and local authorities.