Two thirds of auditors who regularly inspect factories in Asia have discovered cases of child labour over the past two years, a survey has revealed.
But only in around one third of cases could the auditor ensure the child was removed from the workplace, said the study by the Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR).
The report found 64% of auditors in Asia had encountered child labour in the past two years.
The survey was drawn up from the responses of 557 auditors in more than nine countries – mainly China, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Of the respondents, 385 were from China.
“The result of the auditor survey confirms that child labour risks still exist in the first-tier supply chains of international brands, and probably to a greater extent than some may have expected,” said the study.
Of the auditors working in China, 63% said that dropping out of school is the main reason for children to start working.
In other parts of Asia, however, auditors said poverty was the principal reason for child labour.
Regulations and many brands’ zero-tolerance policies were circumvented mainly by lack of age-verification procedures in Vietnam or by forged or borrowed ID cards in China.
In China, 59% of auditors believe that factories “overlooking” the workers’ age due to heavy demand for labour contributes to the problem. Outside of China, lack of age verification was considered to contribute more to child labour.
The study quotes one auditor from Vietnam as saying: “There are two reasons for the factories to hire child labourers: 1) lack of employees, 2) cheap labour because the salary of child labourers is only 50% of normal workers.”
Almost three quarters (71%) of auditors said they had found most children working in simple production processes, such as finishing and packaging, with very few in heavy manufacturing.
Lack of follow-up or the child “disappearing” were cited as the most common reasons for lack of further action when children were found in factories. This situation could be avoided with more involvement from NGOs or social services, the authors said.
The report said its findings point to “serious capacity gaps in factories' HR procedures, which complicate both child labour prevention and response protocols”.
CCR CSR said while its survey almost exclusively covered the manufacturing industry, most child labour is found in the agricultural and service sectors, with only 7% occurring in industry.