Child labour is one of the most pressing topics of discussion on our industry. One point of departure is that all forms of child labour are detestable. However, some feel that child labour is better than the alternative, i.e. a family that is unable to support itself.
Gina Tricot follows the BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) Code of Conduct, which obliges us to protect children from financial exploitation and from engaging in work that is potentially dangerous or harmful to a child's health and development.
BSCI defines a child as a person under the age of 15, but, in accordance with the ILO Convention's exception, the minimum age is 14 in certain developing countries, such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The BSCI also requires that special protection must be given to young workers (14-17 years old). There are, for example, special rules about the type of work a young worker is allowed to perform, along with requirements on the working hours.
What is the situation like in India?
In India, just like in most developing countries, there are workplace health and safety challenges throughout the supply chain. Environmental consideration is one aspect, but particularly in India, there is an even greater risk of child labour than there is in certain other countries. One reason is that child labour has existed for a long time in India. In addition, the socio-economic structure in India is such that children are often forced to work.
However, more and more Indian companies are showing interest and commitment to CSR issues, primarily in areas where you can also cut costs, such as by lowering energy use. But, it is generally much more difficult implementing changes that have to do with working conditions and other issues that are cultural in nature, such as banning discrimination.
As a company, what can we do about it?
Of all the BSCI audits conducted in 2012, 7 % took place in India. For Gina Tricot, India is one of the smaller purchasing markets. We currently have around 8 suppliers, most of whom are located in the Delhi area.
All of our suppliers in India have had a BSCI audit by a third party inspector. When we visit the factories, we also have certain routines aimed at prohibiting child labour. We check how the factories employ new workers and how they determine the age of job applicants. For example, we check that there is ID documentation for all employees. We also make note of whether the employees look particularly young. But this is difficult, because many times they look much younger than they really are. And, we do spot checks of ID cards as well. Furthermore, we talk to our suppliers about their responsibilities further back in the supply chain.
We have guidelines about what to do if we discover that children are working in the factories and we require that they are immediately removed. Typically, a child is working in order to help support the family, or the child is alone and must support him/herself. In such instances, we need to ensure that the child's wages continue to be paid out until a long-term solution is found. We can also help find a satisfactory long-term solution that considers the child's age, social situation, level of education, etc. The most important thing, is ensuring that our actions actually improve, rather than worsen the child's situation. If the child is of school age, the goal is to get him or her back in school as soon as possible. BSCI has a network of organizations that can provide on-site assistance, which is important.