Many international clothing brands, including H&M, C&A, Esprit and Gap, contribute to the child labour conditions in Bangladesh, where wages in the clothing industry are so low that parents have to put their children to work as well.
3.5 million children work
According to Branded Childhood study, carried out by SOMO (Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen - Center for Research on Multinational Corporations) and Stop Kinderarbeid (Stop Child Labour), more than 3.5 million children aged between 5 and 17 are actually working in Bangladesh.
Child labour in the textile industry itself has been reduced over the past few years, mainly because of the buyers' zero tolerance policies. However, international clothing brands are still indirectly responsible for child labour: an average employee in the Bengali clothing industry only gets paid a third of what is considered to be an acceptable wage, which is why parents are often forced to put their children to work, even though they now work in other industries.
"Companies' responsibility to deal with child labour extends to indirect child labour as well", Stop Kinderarbeid policy officer Gerard Oonk said. "That is why companies have to judge how their business model impacts employees and their children.
That is why Stop Kinderarbeid and SOMO urge companies that work with Bengali textile companies take the necessary measures to make sure these employees are paid acceptable wages. "This will help their children to go back to school and enjoy their childhood."