A division of the U.S. Department of Labor has issued an updated list of goods produced by child and forced labor.
The Bureau of International Labor Affairs’ mission is to improve working conditions, raise living standards, protect worker rights and address workplace exploitation of children and vulnerable populations. Since 1995, its Office of Child and Forced Labor has funded 280 projects in more than 90 countries to combat child labor. In October, the office released its annual report on the worst forms of child labor.
Follow-up reports have now been issued including the a list of products produced by forced child labor. Associate Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for International Affairs Eric Biel reports that it adds 11 products to the 136 goods listed from 74 countries. “Garments from Bangladesh, cotton and sugar cane from India, vanilla from Madagascar, fish from Kenya, fish from Yemen, alcoholic beverages, meat, textiles and timber from Cambodia and palm oil from Malaysia produced by child labor. So that’s ten and then the eleventh is electronics from Malaysia produced by adults in forced labor situations, forced labor conditions.”
U.S. regulations require a second separate list that is intended to insure federal agencies do not procure such goods. That update adds carpets from India. Biel says the overall intent is to provide information on the level of abuse. “There are an estimated 168 million, these are ILO International Labor Organization estimates, 168 million child laborers around the world and 21 million forced laborers. Our goal is by having these lists, and this indeed was the intent of Congress in mandating this work, to spur collective action to address these abuses which are fundamental human rights violations. Not to mention that they are also bad business practices that stifle inclusive economic growth and sound economic development.”
Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking Director Marcia Eugenio said while the agency knows the production of the goods involves child or forced labor, they don’t necessarily know if the products are being imported into the United States. “It’s an important point of discussions with many industry groups and also with governments because some of the goods that we’re listing are major exports. And whether the goods are ending up in the United States or all the European countries it’s difficult for us to tell. Having said that, we in the United States have regulations in place that actually prohibits the importation of goods that are made with forced labor.”
Biel adds they are reaching out to business to prevent distribution of the materials. “We issued the Toolkit for Responsible Businesses that we think is an effective way for businesses to better understand what they can do to, if not eradicate completely, at least minimize the likelihood that they’re going to be using, purchasing and distributing goods made with either forced or child labor.”