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‘Brands will contribute to child labour”

International clothing brands like H&M, C&A, Esprit and Marks & Spencer contribute indirectly to child labour in Bangladesh, a study of Stop child labour and SOMO. Due to the low wages in the textile sector, many parents forced their children out to work to send.

Children are welcome workers in the cheap sigarettenindustrie. Here, they fill the cores manually with locally grown tobacco in a factory in the province of Rangpur. © REUTERS

An average worker in the Bangladeshi garment industry gets only a third of what is considered a livable wage. “Low wages and long working hours appear to play an important role in the decision of parents to keep their children out of school and out of work”, in the report ‘Branded Childhood.

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This report focuses according to the organizations, however, a “more hidden” aspect of child labour.

According to the SOMO (Stichting onderzoek Multinationale ondernemingen) wear a lot of clothing brands and retailers, not only the above, contribute to this situation. Almost 50 percent of textiles in Bangladesh is produced, it is exported to the European Union.

Child labor declined

More than 3.5 million Bangladeshi children between 5 and 17 years old work. Child labor in export-oriented kledingfabrieken in recent years declined significantly, the report states. That is partly due to a zero tolerance policy of purchasing companies. This report focuses according to the organizations, however, a “more hidden” aspect of child labour.

The working children from the report are not part of the supply chains of the purchasing companies, but are children of the textile workers. They work at home or in other companies, sometimes in very different sectors. According to the authors, this is a result of the low wages and long working hours in the textile industry.

“The responsibility of enterprises for child labour to deal also extends to indirect child labour”, says Gerard Oonk, policy officer at the coalition to Stop child labour. “Therefore, companies need the impact of their purchasing practices on workers and their children to review.”

Appropriate measures

Many big garment brands and retailers make their clothes in Bangladesh. The report looked at seven companies. In addition to the previously mentioned companies were GAP, VF Corporation, and Kmart Australia. However, there are still many more companies who make their products in the plants studied. “The responsibility lies not only with the brands and retailers that are in this report called,” the researchers say.

Stop child labour and the SOMO urge all companies sourcing in Bangladesh to take “appropriate measures” to be taken to ensure a living wage and good working conditions for the workers in their supply chain. “This will enable their children to school, and from their childhood to enjoy.” (IPS)

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