The United States are the only UN member country that has not signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
I have been wondering over the last few days whether it is enough to only find out whether something is made in the UK. Sounds weird I know – but what if my support of UK manufacturing also ends up supporting child labour in another country?
If I find a UK manufacturer of babywear, but they buy their cotton from India where child labour is used to pick the cotton, then I might be supporting British industry but at the same time may also be supporting child labour or unfair trading in another country.
It seems to make a mockery of my ethics if I don’t find out where the raw material, that UK manufacturers buy in to make baby clothing, has been sourced from and under what conditions it has been made.
Some Stats and Examples
They work 10 hour shifts in 40C heat for 20 pence a day picking the cotton that make our bed sheets (2008 Guardian).
It is estimated that there are between 70 and 80 million child labourers in India (Campaign Against Child Labour). Child labour accounts for 22% of the workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, 17% in Latin America, 1% in US, Canada, Europe and other wealthy nations (source Wikipedia).
In 2007 a Sunday newspaper exposed that child labourers were working in the embroidery industry in production of GAP Kids blouses. GAP accepted this and pulled the products from its shelves (source Wikipedia).
In 2008 the BBC reported on Primark using child labour in the manufacture of its clothing (source Wikipedia).
In 2009 both H&M and Zara were found to be selling clothes made with cotton which may have been picked by children and that many of their raw materials originated from Uzbekistan, where children aged 10 are forced to work in the fields. Although H&M and Zara’s code of conduct banned child labour, H&M admitted they did not have reliable methods to ensure Uzbek cotton did not end up in any of its products (source Wikipedia).
So is it enough to only find out whether a product is made in the UK or should I also find out where the raw materials have been bought from too?