Cotton for clothing may be produced with forced child labour

The problem with low prices for Bangladesh-produced clothing goes beyond unsafe factories and human rights abuses in sewing factories, according to the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation. The cotton from which clothing is produced may come from forced child labour. According to EJF:

  • In Uzbekistan hundreds of thousands of children are forced by the regime to handpick cotton during the harvest season with little or no pay. EJF states that negotiations are underway for a new multi-annual deal that could see Bangladesh importing 200,000 tonnes of cotton from Uzbekistan each year
  • In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, an estimated 100,000 children below 18 have been reported to work 13 hours a day in cottonseed production for less than half a euro per day. These children are often bonded by loans given to their parents, since many farmers are unable to pay the local minimum wage and advance money to parents who are then bound to send their children to the fields.
  • In Egypt, each year an estimated one million children aged between 7 and 12 work to manually remove pests from cotton plants. For periods of up to 10 weeks each year, they work 11 hours a day, 7 days a week. Abuses reported include exposure to pesticides, beatings from foremen and overwork.
  • Children across Asia and Africa may also work on family farms, a symptom of the inequity of the cotton supply chain that gives poor rewards to farmers in the developing world.

EJF reports document many of these claims and add information on the adverse environmental impacts of cotton production in developing countries. The organization is running a campaign to promote a more sustainable future for the cotton industry. More details at http://ejfoundation.org/cotton/cotton-and-child-labour  and http://ejfoundation.org/cotton/Bangladesh_Uzbekistan_import_deal

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