A Lost Generation?

REPORT | 25 September 2014
Garment workers’ children in from of a typical house in a slumarea in Mohakhali, Dhaka. Photo: Swedwatch 2014

Millions of children are linked to international clothing companies’ production. Although many companies have developed their sustainability efforts with regard to human rights, they lack a child rights perspective.

The report 44 children shows that the low wages of textile workers in Bangladesh, alongside poor social security systems and their vulnerable position in society, is threatening several of the rights of the textile workers’ children.

The children in the study have parents who work with producing clothes in factories that supply Swedish buyers. Despite long working hours and overtime, the workers’ wages are not enough to provide for a reasonable standard of living for them and their families. Textile workers report that the latest wage increase in 2013 was not felt due to increased food prices and skyrocketing rents in the unregulated housing markets of the slum areas.

In addition to the low wages and long working hours several other factors, such as the lack of social security schemes, difficulties for trade unions to function freely, corruption and the lack of government presence in the slums, act to lock workers and their families into poverty-related problems. The responsibility for safeguarding the rights of the workers’ children lies first and foremost with the state. However, the UN Guiding Principles states that businesses responsibility to respect human rights exists independently of the ability of the state to protect these rights.

The report argues that there is a shared responsibility for the situation of the workers’ children, and that companies should include a child rights perspective in their due diligence, in accordance with The Children’s Rights and Business Principles – a framework for companies to use in the evaluation and management of impacts on the rights of children and their well-being.

In a survey presented in the report, all 18 companies agree that they have at least a shared responsibility for the situation of the textile workers’ children and acknowledge that there is a linkage between their company and the well-being of the workers’ children. Furthermore, the companies state that a living wage is the single most important factor for improving the situation of the children.

The report shows that initiatives and policies to strengthen the rights of workers’ children are missing. Swedish and international companies are urged to address the issue of human rights in general and children in particular, in a comprehensive and long-term strategy.

Made in collaboration with: LO-TCO Secretariat