Banning homeworking won't stop child labour - Traidcraft and HomeWorkers Worldwide toolkit

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
4 March 2015

Retailers should not ban the practice of ‘homeworking’ in supply chains to prevent the use of child labour.

That’s the view expressed in a ‘toolkit’ published to help businesses tackle the problem, produced by UK-based Fairtrade organisation Traidcraft and advocacy group HomeWorkers Worldwide.

Common jobs carried out by homeworkers include stitching and embroidery, shoe making and cutting jeans. Homeworking is often laborious and low paid, but is difficult for companies to monitor because it does not take place in a factory.

“We don’t believe that banning homeworking is the answer,” said Maveen Pereira, head of south Asia programmes at Traidcraft Exchange, the organisation's charitable arm. “If families lose their work, it impoverishes them further and children may find themselves pushed towards even worse forms of child labour.”

The guidance sets out seven steps for businesses to follow when the risk of child labour has been identified. These are:

1. Develop clear policies
2. Map the supply chain
3. Understand how much homeworkers are currently paid
4. Calculate a fair rate per piece
5. Ensure homeworkers receive a fair rate per piece
6. Ensure homeworkers receive social security cover
7. Develop remediation strategies, which could include working with an NGO, talking to suppliers, financial support and education.

“Children are often forced into labour because their parents’ earnings are inadequate and insecure. Companies can take steps to ensure children do not need to work through raising wages, finding ways to make the work more regular, and ensuring that homeworkers receive some form of social security coverage. Where parents are able to earn enough money to support their families, they are far more likely to keep their children out of work and in education,” added Pereira.

The document also includes links to a model child labour policy, a model purchase order between contractor and supplier, and further advice on how to set piece rates.

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