The Global Phenomenon of Child Labour: Facts, Data and Law
The year 2021 is actually a reminder to the world about the long journey to create a world free from child labour. This is because the United Nations General Assembly in 2019 has declared 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour – four more years towards the ASEAN roadmap target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour and one more year towards a child labour-free Indonesia in the proposed roadmap. Can the world, especially Indonesia, achieve this target? There is no definite answer yet, but the abolition of child labour is not an easy task.
Data shows that 1 in 10 children in the world is a child worker where 79 million of the 160 million child workers in the world work in hazardous sectors. While in Indonesia alone, in 2020, the number of child workers aged 15-17 years reached 1.353.000 children. This is the reason why the elimination of child labour is not as easy as turning the palm of the hand. In fact, the world’s long journey to work on this classic problem has faced greater obstacles due to the Covid-19 pandemic where school closures have increased the risk of children becoming child labourers. “Child labour is a coping mechanism for many families (due to increasing poverty during the pandemic)”, said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.
Then, how does the current law contribute to eliminating child labour? At the international level, there are 2 International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions that are considered as milestones in the elimination of child labour worldwide, namely ILO Convention No. 138 concerning Minimum Age Limits for Children to be Allowed to Work and ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. In addition, the effective elimination of child labour is also one of the four principles concerning fundamental rights in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Indonesian government has also demonstrated its commitment to eliminating child labour, especially the worst forms of child labour, through the ratification of ILO Convention No. 138 and No. 182 by issuing Law no. 20 of 1999 and Law no. 1 of 2000. By ratifying the ILO convention, Indonesia fully complies with the commitment to eliminate child labour in all its forms. In addition, the Government of Indonesia has also issued a national legal instrument to strengthen the state’s steps to address this issue, namely through Law no. 23 of 2002 and Law no. 13 of 2003 concerning Manpower. Anyone who violates these laws will be subject to strict sanctions. Not only issuing various regulations, the Government is also trying to form a National Action Committee for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (KAN-PBPTA) through Presidential Decree No. 12 of 2001 to lead the steps to eliminate child labour in Indonesia.
However, are the above legal instruments sufficient? Certainly not, because other concrete steps are needed to support efforts to eliminate child labour. One of them is the topic that will be discussed in this paper – Child Labor Free Certification.
Child Labour Vulnerable Industries: Negative Effects of the Manufacturing Sector and Consumer Behavior
Based on the history of Child Labour Free Certification, the involvement of child labour in the supply chain has raised the concerns of many parties to promote this movement. The supply chain referred to here is not only concentrated in the industrial and trade sectors such as manufacturing, but also in the agricultural, plantation and forestry sectors. In the manufacturing sector in particular, the problem starts with the large number of large companies subcontracting their production and buying their basic materials from smaller companies in both the formal and informal sectors. These large companies may not employ child labour directly in their day-to-day business activities, but whether they know it or not, they may work with their supply companies which instead employ children. In the agricultural sector, the same thing happens when big buyers in agriculture and processing companies buy from small producers who lengthen the supply chain. It is in these small plantations that child labour often occurs in the agricultural sector.
Low awareness and weak control of large companies over their supplying companies are the root of serious problems because it makes the existence of child labour in the supply chain increasingly difficult to eliminate. This is what moves business people to be more stringent in establishing business relationships with other parties. Usually international buyers will ask companies (especially those engaged in export) to ensure that the company does not involve child labour in their production process, either directly or indirectly (through the supplying company). This guarantee is generally stated in the cooperation contract or through the signature of the code of conduct by the company. However, currently, the innovation of child labour free certification is increasingly attractive for companies to replace guarantees in contracts and codes of conduct so that business cooperation will be more effective.
Today, the issue of child labor in the supply chain is becoming an increasingly important issue due to the high number of child labourers working in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The news media Deutsche Welle noted that there are 7 (seven) sectors that most often exploit children as low-paid workers, namely coffee plantations, cotton plantations, brick industries, garment industries, sugarcane plantations, tobacco plantations, and gold mining. The ILO, in one of its reports, describes the situation of child labourers working in the manufacturing sector:
“Especially in developing countries, thousands of children work in manufacturing companies that produce various goods, such as clothes, toys, lighters, brassware, soccer balls, etc. These production units can be large, but most are quite small and labour intensive, meaning most production is done by hand rather than machines. Children usually work indoors under close supervision. Goods can also be produced within the household, with the whole family involved in the production process. Child labour in manufacturing, in general, receives more rigid and harsher remuneration treatment. Their working hours are longer and inflexible so most children drop out of school. The companies where these children are employed are usually very small in scale and operate as subcontractors of large companies where such companies are often informal, unregistered and unstable.”
Child Labour Free Certification was born out of concern over the situation of child labor in the manufacturing sector. Business players in the manufacturing sector are starting to realize the importance of certifying themselves with the status “Child Labour Free” to avoid consumer boycotts of their products. However, when more people recognized child labour free certification, it motivates business people to become more aware of running an ethical business and contributing to changing consumer consumption patterns for their products. An online fashion brand from the UK, Amberoot, stated that 75% (seventy five percent) of consumers are willing to change their shopping habits to respond to the use of child labour, where consumers will prefer to buy products from brands that have been certified as “child labour”. free”. Just imagine – if 1 (one) consumer changes their shopping habit by only buying products marked “child labour free” – then the company’s sales level will be significantly affected, which in turn, forces the company to stop using child labour
Child Labour Free Certification: An Effort to Eliminate Child Labour in the Supply Chain
In general, Child Labour Free Certification is a global certification system to independently examine and analyze companies and their supply chains for the use of child labour in all product categories. This certification aims to make it easier for consumers to identify brands that do not use child labour in their production and support these brands to ensure their supply chain does not involve child labour. Then, what is the track record of this Child Labour Free certification, from its appearance to its current development?
In the early 1990s, the report of child labor in many industries increased. They include the carpet and soccer industries. Specifically, critics suspect that four-year-old children are sold into labor at both industries, and their families receive the equivalent of $50 in exchange for a few years of their child labor. In the same year, there were also allegations that soccer balls product sold by well-known sports brands such as Umbro, Reebok, Adidas, and Mitre – which provided balls for Britain’s Football Association and Premier League – were sewn by Pakistani children, who some of them are sold by their parents as child labor. This type of report invites a great global concern about the exploitative conditions of multinational corporations.
From that day, the involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in supervising corporations has grown. In conducting this supervision, NGOs used a threat called “naming and shaming” corporations that they consider does not meet the minimum ethical behavior. This acts to influence consumer behavior hoping that the consumers will be reluctant to tolerate and support unethical businesses. In return, business people try to protect their brand existence from being embarrassed by NGOs and respond to their request by offering promises that they will comply with the code of conduct or agreeing to be monitored by NGOs for certification purposes as evidence that their business has been done ethically. This is the beginning of the NGOs movement in several countries to certify the production processes of various companies and put on the label “child labor free” for their products.
Various NGOs in parts of the world have started to provide child-labor-free certification. However, at least 3 (three) names of NGOs familiar to the public regarding their efforts in certifying the company’s production processes, namely GoodWeave, Fairtrade International, and Child Labor Free. Let’s discuss them one by one!
To be certified by GoodWeave, the company (exporter) must be legally registered in the country where the company operates and have obtained a license from GoodWeave. Any company can apply to become a licensee of GoodWeave, regardless of business scale or production volume. Interestingly, this certification process is that both the exporter and the importer must become GoodWeave’s licensees. Only then can the certification process for the exporter company be carried out. Both importers and exporters must sign a license agreement with GoodWeave.
Once both are licensed, GoodWeave will carry out extensive monitoring and inspection/auditing at every stage of the supply chain. Especially in the carpet manufacturing industry, the looms of all licensees will be monitored regularly through systematic random checks by experienced and competent inspectors.To minimize the possibility of cooperation between the loom owner and the examiner, the examiner does not know which loom they will visit until the D day. The inspection team will also be replaced periodically to prevent corruption. If, during the inspection process, child labor is detected on the loom, GoodWeave will immediately revoke the carpet manufacturer’s license, and the product cannot carry the GoodWeave label even though there is only 1 (one) child labor found on one of the looms. The inspection process includes weaving activities and other additional activities such as washing, cutting, coloring, etc. If the company successfully passes the inspection process, the company is entitled to a GoodWeave label on the product to be exported.
Fairtrade is a global association based in Germany founded in 1997 that aims to promote the lives of farmers and workers through trade. Fairtrade works with farmers and workers working on more than 300 commodities. The main products promoted under the Fairtrade label are coffee, chocolate, bananas, flowers, tea, and sugar. Each product with the Fairtrade label indicates that the producer, the traders, and the entire business have complied with international standards, which have been independently certified.
Just like GoodWeave, the certification scheme developed by Fairtrade also meets ISEAL’s Assurance Code compliance standards. However, Fairtrade differs because the certification process is carried out by an independent certifier, namely FLOCERT, which has competent and independent auditors to conduct audits/inspections. First of all, manufacturers must go through an initial on-site audit that an auditor will carry out. After the physical audit is completed, the audit report will be sent to FLOCERT for evaluation and approval or follow-up if nonconforming matters are found during the audit process. The decision to certify is made by FLOCERT and will only be issued once the nonconformities have been corrected. The company must renew this certification by the manufacturer every 3 (three) years, where FLOCERT will conduct regular audits and renewal audits during the 3 (three) year cycle.
Child Labor Free Certification, especially, is expected to change people’s consumption behavior into ethical consumption. In the business context, the level of public consumption of a product will significantly impact the continuity of a business. Therefore, when consumers decide to boycott a product because it involves child labor in its production process, the company can certainly be damaged. In addition, in today’s era, foreign buyers also tend to look for suppliers free from child labor because they want to meet applicable international labor standards, avoid bad publicity, and, again, potential product boycotts from consumers.
Thus, companies that want to be sustainable must ensure that child labor is not employed in their supply chains. Not only can sustainability be maintained, but companies can also broaden the scope of their buyers and explore new market opportunities.
However, despite the above business considerations, in principle, children should not be employed as child labor, let alone in the worst forms of labor. Every business actor must prevent or stop child labor in their supply chain for the better life of children and their rights protected by law.
Indonesia Needs to Promoting Child Labor Free Certification
This certification is not just a sheet of paper, black on white, or a label printed on a product, but an effort to change people’s perspective and behavior in fighting child labor. The more countries promote this movement, the more effective the efforts to eliminate child labor. Indonesia should promote this movement even more massively to local and multinational business actors, given the significant number of child laborers in various sectors in Indonesia. Reflecting on a neighboring country, the Government of Vietnam, through the Ministry of Labor Invalids and Social Affairs, is developing a child labor free certification scheme such as that of GoodWeave, in collaboration with several institutions, including the ILO, which supports this effort by establishing the ENHANCE project. Similar to what has been done by the Government of Vietnam, the Government of Indonesia can also develop this child labor free certification scheme by involving various stakeholders, such as relevant ministries, NGOs, corporate business actors, etc. This is called starting with small steps but having a big impact on the lives of child laborers out there
 Irham Ali Saifuddin, Bertindak Sekarang: Hapuskan Pekerja Anak, WDACL 2021 & Tahun Internasional Penghapusan Pekerja Anak, 12 Juni 2021 (Jakarta: International Labor Organization, 2021), hlm. 2
 Ibid, hlm. 3 dan 6.
 UNICEF, “Covid-19 may push millions more children into child labour – ILO and UNICEF,” <COVID-19 may push millions more children into child labour – ILO and UNICEF> diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 09.47 WIB.
 International Labor Organization, A Future Without Child Labor: Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, (Geneva: International Labor Office, 2002), hlm. 2.
 Kementerian Ketenagakerjaan Republik Indonesia, Peta Jalan (Roadmap) Menuju Indonesia Bebas Pekerja Anak Tahun 2022, (Jakarta: Kementerian Ketenagakerjaan RI, 2014), hlm. 2-3.
 International Labor Organization, Pengusaha dan Pekerja Anak, Panduan 1: Pengenalan terhadap Permasalahan Pekerja Anak, (Jakarta: International Labor Organization, 2009), hlm. 16.
 DW.com, “Inilah Tujuh Industri Surga Buruh Anak,” <Inilah Tujuh Industri Surga Buruh Anak | Semua konten media | DW | 01.12.2020> diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 15.54 WIB.
 International Labor Organization, Child Labor “In A Nutshell” – A Resource for Pacific Island Countries, International Labor Office, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), (Geneva: International Labor Organization, 2014), hlm. 20.
 Amberoot, “How to ensure no child labor was used in a product – Introducing Child Labor Free Certification Mark,” <How to ensure no child labor was used in a product – Introducing Child – Amberoot> diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 18.12 WIB.
 Irfan Nooruddin dan Sarah Wilson Sokhey, Credible Certification of Child Labor Free Production (from Part I – Monitoring and NGOs), dalam buku The Credibility of Transnational NGOs: When Virtue is Not Enough, (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), hlm. 62-85.
 RNZ, “Child Labor Free certifier closes, major fashion labels say they weren’t told,” <Child Labor Free certifier closes, major fashion labels say they weren’t told | RNZ News> diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 20.43 WIB.
 GoodWeave, “Our Mission,” <Nobel Peace Prize Initiative to End Child Labor | GoodWeave> diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 21.19 WIB.
 GoodWeave International, Licensing and Certification Policy, 12 November 2020.
 The Guardian Labs, “Child labour can’t be carpeted over by a logo, but it’s a step in the right direction,” <Child labour can’t be carpeted over by a logo, but it’s a step in the right direction | Global development | The Guardian> diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 21.42 WIB.
 International Labor Organization, Pengusaha dan Pekerja Anak, hlm. 32.
 International Labor Organization, Terms of Reference: Developing and Implementing A Child Labor Free Certification Scheme for Enterprises in Vietnam, 2020.
GoodWeave International. Licensing and Certification Policy. 12 November 2020.
International Labor Organization. A Future Without Child Labor: Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Geneva: International Labor Office, 2002.
International Labor Organization. Child Labor “In A Nutshell” – A Resource for Pacific Island Countries, International Labor Office, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC). Geneva: International Labor Organization, 2014.
International Labor Organization. Pengusaha dan Pekerja Anak, Panduan 1: Pengenalan terhadap Permasalahan Pekerja Anak,. Jakarta: International Labor Organization, 2009.
International Labor Organization. Terms of Reference: Developing and Implementing A Child Labor Free Certification Scheme for Enterprises in Vietnam, 2020
Kementerian Ketenagakerjaan Republik Indonesia. Peta Jalan (Roadmap) Menuju Indonesia Bebas Pekerja Anak Tahun 2022. Jakarta: Kementerian Ketenagakerjaan RI, 2014.
Nooruddin, Irfan dan Sarah Wilson Sokhey. Credible Certification of Child Labor Free Production (from Part I – Monitoring and NGOs), dalam buku The Credibility of Transnational NGOs: When Virtue is Not Enough. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Saifuddin, Irham Ali. Bertindak Sekarang: Hapuskan Pekerja Anak, WDACL 2021 & Tahun Internasional Penghapusan Pekerja Anak, 12 Juni 2021. Jakarta: International Labor Organization, 2021.
Amberoot. “How to ensure no child labor was used in a product – Introducing Child Labor Free Certification Mark” <How to ensure no child labor was used in a product – Introducing Child – Amberoot> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 18.12 WIB.
DW.com. “Inilah Tujuh Industri Surga Buruh Anak” <Inilah Tujuh Industri Surga Buruh Anak | Semua konten media | DW | 01.12.2020> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 15.54 WIB.
Fairtrade International. “How Fairtrade certification works?” <How Fairtrade certification works> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 23.04 WIB.
Fairtrade International. “What is Fairtrade?” <What is Fairtrade?> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 23.04 WIB.
GoodWeave. “Our Mission” <Nobel Peace Prize Initiative to End Child Labor | GoodWeave> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 21.19 WIB.
RNZ. “Child Labor Free certifier closes, major fashion labels say they weren’t told” <Child Labor Free certifier closes, major fashion labels say they weren’t told | RNZ News> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 20.43 WIB.
Rugmark India. “About Rugmark” <Rugmark – Rugmark India> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 22.26 WIB.
The Guardian Labs. “Child labour can’t be carpeted over by a logo, but it’s a step in the right direction” <Child labour can’t be carpeted over by a logo, but it’s a step in the right direction | Global development | The Guardian> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 21.42 WIB.
UNICEF. “Covid-19 may push millions more children into child labour – ILO and UNICEF” <COVID-19 may push millions more children into child labour – ILO and UNICEF> Diakses pada tanggal 7 November 2021, pkl. 09.47 WIB.