FLA and SCL report proposes a collaborative effort in fashion to end child labour in Agra
today Dec 20, 2017
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Stop Child Labour Coalition (SCL) have highlighted the prevalence of child labour in Agra’s leather footwear industry and, in a new report, suggest a collaborative effort to stop it.
In a new report titled “Children’s Lives at Stake: Working Together to End Child Labour in Agra Footwear Production,” the FLA and SCL have shone the spotlight on what they describe as “the substantial prevalence of child labor in footwear production in the city of Agra, one of India’s primary centres of domestic and export production of leather footwear.” The report details the current situation in Agra and concludes with the recommendation that buyers, suppliers, the government, civil society, and communities work together to create a “Child Labour Free Zone” in the city. Their recommendations stretch beyond Agra’s fashion production industry and also pertain to child workers involved in any sector.
“Curbing child labor in Agra requires the involvement and collaboration of multiple stakeholders,” said Sharon Waxman, president and CEO of the FLA. “There is no one level of the chain or participant in the industry who working alone can erase child labor,” Waxman explained. In this context, a multi-sector approach is recommended and the onus is put on every stage of the supply chain.
According to the report, only 55 percent of children in Agra are currently enrolled in school and, as Agra is arguably India’s capital of leather footwear production, many child labourers are engaged in working for the industry. Most child labourers work in small production units, and sometimes at home. The report cites low wages for footwear producers and a lack of education infrastructure as the main reasons why children, some even younger than 12 years old, are made to work. Moreover, the report states that families working in the footwear industry in Agra generally would not make enough money to support themselves if only the parents worked. This gives families little choice but to have their children work too.
“A community-based approach to get all children out of work and into school, as well as proper risk assessment and concrete measures by footwear companies to solve issues of child labor and other labor rights violations in their supply chain, are both absolutely necessary,” said Sofie Ovaa, co-ordinator of the SCL, calling for fair wages in the sector. A living wage for adult workers would mean that they could support their families without resorting to child labour.
The report states that the question of whether shoes made for export also use child labour is a challenging one. Although researchers did not find evidence of child labour in the export facilities they inspected, they did find evidence of subcontracting to “informal workplaces” where child labour could occur. The FLA and SCL have recommended that international leather footwear buyers conduct regular inspections and check for signs of sub-contracting to informal manufacturing units. They also recommend a community and government effort to improve wages in the sector and build a sufficient education infrastructure to support the transition of child labourers from work to school.
The year 2017 has seen an inspection of ethics in many sectors of the global fashion industry and brands are becoming increasingly scrutinised for the impacts of their production process. Moving forward, the FLA and SCL will continue to monitor the situation and work towards the eradication of child labour worldwide.
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