Best Response: Auditors' Insights on Child Labour in Asia

June 15th, 2016, Hong Kong – A new report by the Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR; changed to The Centre for Child Rights and Business in 2021) that focuses on the gaps and challenges in preventing and responding to child labour in Asia from an auditor's perspective, highlights the fact that child labour is still prevalent in supply chains across Asia and that most child labour response protocols do not take into account the best interest of the child. According to the report which is titled "Best Response: Auditors' Insights on Child Labour in Asia", 64% of auditors in Asia encountered child labour in the last two years and in only about 1/3 of the cases could auditors confirm that the child was removed from work to ensure his/her safety.

The findings come from a comprehensive survey that was conducted in early 2016 involving feedback from 557 auditors across nine countries in Asia, as well as in-depth interviews with 40 selected auditors.

In China, 63% of the interviewed auditors said that dropping out of school is the main reason for children to start working. As for other parts of Asia, the majority of the auditors stated that the main reason is poverty.

Despite the current regulations and many brands’ and buyers’ zero-tolerance policies, children are still allowed inside factories due to the lack of age verification procedures (Vietnam) or the usage of forged or borrowed ID cards (China). According to 71% of the auditors, most children are found working in simple production processes such as finishing and packaging.

"There are two reasons for the factories to hire child laborers: 1) lack of employees; 2) cheap labour because the salary of child laborers is only 50% of normal workers,” says one interviewed auditor from Vietnam. 

According to the report's findings, 59% of auditors in China believe that child labour occurs because factories "overlook" the workers' age due to excessive demand for labour, whereas in the countries outside of China "no age verification" was cited as the most common reason on average. Both findings point to the fact that there are serious capacity gaps in factories' HR procedures, which complicate both child labour prevention and response protocols.

“While we don't see child labour in masses in Asia's manufacturing industry, the number of cases experienced by auditors is still surprisingly high and the survey exposes big gaps when it comes to acting in the best interest of the child once the child is found,” says Ines Kaempfer, Executive Director of CCR CSR. 

The survey shows that lack of follow-up and the child “disappearing” are the most common reasons explaining the inadequate support for children found in factories. This situation could be avoided with effective involvement of third party organisations, such as social services and child protection NGOs. Yet in practice, contacting third party organisations when discovering child labour seems to happen only rarely, often leading to processes that merely ensure the child leaves the factory while overlooking the need to protect the child and to take into account his/her best interest.

Factory auditors are often the first person to discover child labour during their inspections and to talk to the working child about their background and their experience at work. This report thus provides unique data and new insights on child labour that has not been seen previously.

About the Report Launch:

The results and findings of the report were discussed and analysed by a range of industry leaders, legal professionals and academia including: Foreign Trade Association's BSCI compliance initiative, Samsung Electronics, Elevate Ltd., H&M, IKEA, C&A Sourcing Ltd., OpenView Service Ltd., Save the Children Hong Kong, Justice Centre Hong Kong, University of Macau.

The launch of the event in Hong Kong on June 15 was sponsored by Samsung Electronics. 

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Published on   15/06/2016
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