CLAC’s approach on child labor

We acknowledge that not all labor performed by children and teenagers, within their peasant family framework, is harmful and should be prohibited. There are allowed and wanted forms of labor, which we promote and believe are necessary for both family subsistence and future generation inclusion. It is important for peasant families, that their children learn and value agricultural activity and its contributions to rural household welfare.

Producing families want to transmit their knowledge, ancestral practices and passion for the countryside to future generations. In that regard, the collaboration of producer’s children in the family economy is seen as a way of socialization, learning, knowledge and useful skills acquisition for their future inclusion into agricultural production.

Within the productive schemes of fair trade, children participation in the family economy is allowed and encouraged as long as it does not interfere with education, study time, leisure and breaks; as long as the tasks that are performed are light, not dangerous, supervised by adult relatives and do not harm their development and well-being.

Fairtrade standards that define what is and is not allowed regarding children labor, are based not only on the principal international regulation (ILO Convention Nos. 182 and 138, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), but also indicate that the national respective laws of each country must be respected.

Child labor is defined by the International Labor Organization as the participation of children and adolescents under the age of 18 in work that deprives them of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development and interferes with their schooling.

Importance of meeting labor standards for Fairtrade

The fair trade principles are based on internationally accepted human rights codes, being one of these principles that of promoting forms of more sustainable and inclusive social, economic and environmental production, as well as respectful of people’s rights, including international labor rights that promote decent work.

Fairtrade’s labor standards are based on four fundamental labor rights and principles recognized by the International Labor Organization (ILO): Non-discrimination in employment, freedom of association and joining trade unions, non-use of child labor and non-use of forced labor.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are 12.5 million (8.8%) of children involved in child labor, of which 9.6 million (6.8%) perform dangerous work. Although it is present in all economic sectors, the agricultural sector still is the one with the highest number of children involved in child labor (58.6%).

Practices and actions for the meeting of standards from CLAC

Fully assuming Fairtrade’s standards, CLAC has adopted a commitment to promote child welfare, as well as protect children from any form of threat or harm within the framework of their operations. Likewise, we assume the commitment to protect any adult that is not able to protect him or herself from abuse or serious exploitation that happens in the workplace, such as situations of forced labor and that significantly affect their well-being.

This commitment was formalized last November 2015 with the Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult Policy, which defines lines of action guided towards the prevention of child labor and protection to the people affected in specific cases that may present in the production framework of fair trade.

Among other proceedings defined by the policy, the very same holds responsible the executives, CLAC’s staff, as well as any other person that works, collaborates or visits us in the field to internally report any suspicion or situation confirmed of child labor or forced labor. After that initial report, CLAC is committed to verify the reported situation and look for, on a case-by-case basis, the necessary local support in order to provide protection to the affected person.

Fairtrade standards that define what is and is not allowed regarding children labor, are based not only on the principal international regulation (ILO Convention Nos. 182 and 138UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), but also indicate that the national respective laws of each country must be respected.

Child labor is defined by the International Labor Organization as the participation of children and adolescents under the age of 18 in work that deprives them of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development and interferes with their schooling.

Constant advocacy to address a major challenge

We acknowledge that child and forced labor are complex problems with several reasons and that its answers also depend on the joint action between various players whose roles complement each other.

Some of the deeper causes of child labor go beyond our own capacity to respond and there are several constraints in the contexts that our producers live in: Situations of inequality, poverty, lack of access to social services, to health, education and limited government capacities to ensure our rights. But despite that there are international treaties and national laws, their implementation is still insufficient and the mechanisms to address the harmful practices of child and forced labor are scarce or sometimes non-existent.

The limited capacity that producers have, in many cases, to fully meet the decent labor standards and labor rights are related to the lack of decent income that allows the producer and his/her family have a decent standard of living and invest in education and the well-being of his/her children, or guarantee decent wages and conditions for his/her workers. The lack of decent income has a negative impact in the living conditions of the producers, their families and their temporal or permanent workers.

It also has an impact in new generation’s interest to remain in the countryside and follow their peasant family’s path. If field work loses its appeal and is no longer seen as a viable alternative source of income for new generations we have a major challenge to secure generational inclusion and production’s future sustainability at a family level.

The Fairtrade system, through different guarantees that offers to producers, wants to reverse this situation, but these efforts are not enough.

CLAC’s call

From CLAC, we call upon the players involved in fair trade (including exporters, importers, huge markets and supermarkets, final consumers), as well as public, private and civil society institutions, to work together with producers and workers of fair trade to secure decent wages and incomes, and guarantee adequate working, social and environmental conditions, that helps us improve the life of agricultural producers, their families and their communities.

Do not hesitate to contact CLAC to help you solve any questions regarding labor standard’s compliance for Fair Trade or about our child protection and vulnerable adult policy.