Senate: Say no to child labour

Children have made many of the products in Dutch shops. Even the worst forms of child labour (involving heavy, hazardous and unhealthy labour) can be found in products, such as food, clothing, electronics and cosmetics. Child labour does not disappear by itself, as is demonstrated by the latest counts of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 152 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are involved in child labour. On Tuesday, 19 December, the Senate should therefore vote in favour of the Child Labour Due Diligence Law. This law calls on companies to ostracize child labour from their supply chain.

Child labour

TDH investigated the role of Dutch companies

Terre des Hommes knows better than anyone else how crucial the role of companies is when it comes to eliminating child labour. In 2016, the children’s rights organisation issued a report that detailed clearly which companies were involved with child labour in their supply chain in the mica industry in India. Mica is a mineral that provides a shiny effect and also insulates against electricity and is heat reflective. It is used in virtually all products that surround us, like for example telephones, shampoo, car paint and make-up

Collaborating with companies

Terre des Hommes has motivated companies to fight child labour together. They join forces for example with Kuncai (one of the largest mica importers) and Philips. In addition, the children’s rights organisation is represented on the board of the Responsible Mica Initiative, in which many major brands participate (including L’Oréal, H&M, Estée Lauder and Chanel).

Some companies take action

In many cases companies are aware of the risk of child labour in their supply chains. Like our partners, more companies do pioneering work in the field of sustainability and at the same time tackle child labour. But many companies lag behind. They either don’t consider it their responsibility or don’t take action, as it is not mandatory.

All companies need to get on board

In order to eliminate child labour it is required for all companies to get actively involved against all forms of child labour, also outside the mica industry. If not, companies that do fight child labour suffer from a competitive disadvantage, as a company that tolerates child labour ends up with a head start compared with companies that take a critical look at their suppliers.

Public authorities need to create a level playing field

It is up to the public authorities to prevent this. By introducing the Child Labour Due Diligence Law, public authorities create a level playing field for Dutch companies, as this law obligates all companies to check if children are employed in their supply chain. If this is the case, companies are to take action to ensure that parents who are employed in the supply chain earn enough and can send their children to school.

Other countries have similar due diligence laws

Many countries are drafting legislation that obligates companies to provide insight in how they tackle abuses, like child labour, in their supply chain. The State of California in the United States for example has the Transparency in Supply Chain Act. In the United Kingdom, the UK Modern Slavery Act obligates companies to combat all forms of modern slavery. The Netherlands should join this leading group and not wait for EU legislation.

The Netherlands is already committed

The Netherlands has no choice. We have already signed many treaties and conventions in which we promise to combat child labour and to even end it by 2025. The Netherlands has for example signed for:

  • The convention on the Rights of the Child (article 32 – State Parties recognize the right of children to be protected from exploitation and ensure they can attend school)
  • The ILO Conventions 138 (minimal age) and 182 (worst forms of child labour, like working in mines and sexual exploitation)
  • A commitment to Sustainable Development Goalshet Kinderrechtenverdrag (artikel 32 - staten beschermen kinderen tegen uitbuiting en zorgen dat ze naar school kunnen)

By introducing the Child Labour Due Diligence Law, the Netherlands shows that it assumes its responsibility. The law also serves as a precaution to obligate companies to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which include 31 principles that international companies can implement in order to respect human rights and combat abuses.

Less child labour means more jobs for adults

Companies can create decent working conditions that allow employees to receive living wages. This enables parents to send their children to school, instead of making them work. When children stop working, this means more jobs for adults. In addition, they no longer have to compete with cheap minors, thereby improving their negotiating position for requesting living wages.

Make The Netherlands a country that respects children's rights

The Netherlands has to uphold a reputation with regard to children’s rights. The Netherlands has to keep its promise and observe the international commitment to end child labour. The Senate should take the fight against child labour seriously. This law will represent an essential step forward. Together with nine other NGOs, we call upon the Senate to approve this law.

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