Saturday, 27 October 2018

How Much Children's Clothing Is Made By Children?

It is a horrible thought isn't it? Clothes being made by children. Not that it is any worse than adults' clothing being made my children, but it is strange to think that some children's clothing will have, at some point, been made by children who are a similar age to those who wear it - both children living such a different life, but connected by a piece of clothing.
Out of  the 260 million children around the world that are employed, 170 million are child labourers and 6 million of these children are in forced labour. Many of these children work in the fashion industry as they are cheap labour, with small, nimble fingers and in roles that they don't need much training, such as picking cotton. It is easier for children to go undetected in forced labour than adults.

In the industrial revolution, children made clothes in the UK and around the world and it's easy to think that it must have stopped (as it should have) when the textile industry moved to other countries, but child labour just moved with it.

So how much children's clothing is made by children?

It is hard to tell exactly, as factories cover up child labour as much as they can, but by looking at where the clothing is made (for example, China), you can find out if these countries use child or forced labour when they produce the materials (like cotton). If you know a top is made in China and it is made of cotton, as China produces a lot of cotton, it is likely the cotton was grown in China. Using this website, and entering the country and material you can see that China is known to use child labour in cotton production - so there is a chance a child picked the cotton that made the top.

So which brands source from factories that use child labour? A few big brands (selling children's clothing) have been caught out.
 Although brands such as H&M have done well advertising their eco-friendly traits, not long ago they have been found using sweatshops in which children as young as 14 where working 12 hour shifts, in counties such as Myanmar (read more here). Other brands which have supplied their clothes from factories which use child labour include Disney, Gap, Zara, New Look and Forever 21.
If brands advertise their clothes, by modelling them on happy smiling children, implying that the children who wear their clothes should have a comfortable and safe lifestyle, then why shouldn't they have the same ethos for their workers?

During the early 1990’s Uzbekistan abandoned mechanized cotton picking. They had found a cheaper way - forcing millions of the country's children and young people to pick the cotton instead. A high quota of the backbreaking work must be done before they make any money at all, and it's still happening today. 

However, as many of these children need the income from factory work to survive and support their families, as harsh as it sounds, banning all forms of child labour doesn't seem like the answer. Not straight away anyhow. 

Bithi lives in Dhaka in Bangladesh and is one of the thousands of children in her country working in clothing factories. I found her story on World Vision's website. When she was 12, she made pockets for jeans - sixty pockets an hour at the minimum. Now she is expected to help make around 480 pairs of trousers for $1. Her mother doesn't regret getting Bithi a job in the factory as before, they went without food as her Father couldn't work. 
Bithi said her 'heart breaks' when she see's other children in uniform as her dream is to become a doctor, although her future is likely to be an arranged marriage. 

We need to challenge the brands that we shop at, to be more open about the factories that make their clothes and the people that work for them. Brands have the power to drive down the prices of the clothes they buy from factories, as factory owners don't want to lose custom, so therefore they have the power to find out about the treatment and working conditions of workers, and help improve them. Do you know if any of your clothes have been made by children?

                                                        Beccy x 

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