26 May 2005 | David Arminas
Buyers need to question reflex concerns about child labour when sourcing overseas, according to Peter Easley, senior contracts officer in the corporate procurement unit at the World Bank.
"At first glance, you should not engage any form of child labour," he said in his presentation.
"But in many countries it is acceptable and an integral part of their family structure."
He urged delegates to think back to their youth in the US when they might have helped out at their parents' farm or shop before going to school or after finishing classes.
"The real issue when it comes to employing children is a lack of educational opportunities and healthcare for them."
Easley urged purchasers to monitor and work with suppliers to provide these conditions, even in the US and other countries where the provision of schooling and healthcare are not an issue.
"We at the World Bank think it is purchasing's role to put these issues on the table in front of senior management," he said.
"In some contracts, we stipulate that the supplier does not allow its employees to opt out of healthcare schemes."
Jeanette Rennie, supplier diversity officer in the bank's corporate procurement unit, warned purchasers to be wary of suppliers that admit they employ children but insist they are doing "light work", such as office duties.
In fact, site visits to Africa have found children lifting heavy loads in often dangerous conditions on construction sites, she told delegates.