ENDING THE RISK OF CHILD LABOUR
Businesses have remained as one of the biggest contributors to social and economic development. Business activities are intrinsic to the social and economic fabric around the world. Businesses and social development are interrelated. An increase in the per capita income also increases business turnovers. The increase in business turnovers has also resulted in an increase in the contribution by the business houses for social causes, but even in situations, when the businesses were not in very good shape they have shown the human side of the business during the Covid19 pandemic. Small and large business houses contributed the most, and in very innovative ways to make sure the children, women and people in need have access to essential items1. However, Business activities can impact positively as well as adversely. Children are impacted by business activities, as a consumer, as young workers, as child labour in the supply chain, through the environment in which they live. This impacts the climate crisis and pollution, gender and racial stereotyping, sexual exploitation and abuse, the impact of unhealthy products, online practices, business models, and much more.
Save the Children believes that “Any business activity that adversely impact parents and caregivers can have an indirect but significant impact on children” and business houses and civil society can come together to promote responsible business practices like “Child Rights Business Principles (CRBP)”.
Business and Child Wellbeing in India
Business houses across the world are concerned about the risk of working children in the supply chains. Many corporates have also developed policies for responsible business practices that are environmentally sustainable and promote human rights and are promoting these policies to be adopted by their vendors and suppliers. These however, are at a very nascent stage in India. Indian laws categorize children below the age of 14 and children as adolescents above the age of 14 to 18. Children below 14 years can participate in family business activities, whereas children in the age group of 15 to 18 years can work in non-hazardous occupations and processes. Ideally, if children are working in family farms or in agriculture processes or if children are working in the family occupation at their home they will not be considered as child labourers, but if these products are being procured and supplied in the International market, will it be considered as a product free from child labour In the country of import? Or even in our domestic market? Business is run through a chain of stakeholders and is dependent upon the vendors, suppliers, and manufacturers. This dependency cannot be fully eliminated as one manufacturer cannot manufacture everything to make a finished product. To safeguard the business and sustain business growth, it is important to envisage a clean supply chain that is free from any form of human rights violation and children involvement.
Child Rights Business Principles
Child Rights Business Principle is one of the ways to the sustainable growth of businesses by creating a significant positive impact towards children, workers, vendors, and people involved in the process along with contributing to a sustainable environment. This is critical for the business houses in India, considering the fact that the census of India conducted in 2011 reflects that 10.12 million children are working in the age group of 5 to 14 years in India and the national sample survey 2017-18 India put the number of out-of-school children in India (6-17 years) at 32.2 million. This reflects the high vulnerability and risk of children involved in the supply chain of various businesses. The CRBP approaches has 10 key asks , business to meet t h e i r responsibility to respect children’s rights and commit to supporting the human rights of children, contribute to the elimination of child labour, including in all business activities and business relationships, provide decent work for young workers, parents, and caregivers, ensure the protection and safety of children in all business activities and facilities, ensure that products and services are safe, and seek to support children’s rights through them, use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights, respect and support children’s rights in relation to the environment and to land acquisition and use Respect and support c h i l d ren’s r i g ht s i n s e c u r i t y arrangements, help and protect children affected by emergencies, Reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfil children’s rights.
These small steps can bring a big change. Business houses can start with a voluntary way to promote child rights and thereafter move in a phased manner to make sure their supply chains have no risk of child labour. The need is to have a greater cooperation between the corporate, civil societies and government to eliminate risk of child labour in supply chains across the sectors in coming years.