US Department of Labor: 28 countries were Found Using Child or Forced Labor in Making Textiles and Apparel

In its updated List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor (ILAB) released on December 1, 2014, the U.S. Department Labor said that at least 28 countries are found using child or forced labor in making textiles and apparel. All countries on the list appear to be developing countries. Particularly, the problem of using child labor or forced labor was found most serious in the cotton sector (18 countries), followed by garment manufacturing (9 countries).

Bangladesh, a focus of corporate social responsibilities practices these days, was found using child labor in making garment according to ILAB.


2(Data compiled by Sheng Lu)

Note: * ILAB maintains a list of goods and their source countries which it has reason to believe are produced by child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards. The List is intended to raise public awareness about child labor and forced labor around the world, and to promote and inform efforts to address them. A starting point for action, the List creates opportunities for ILAB to engage and assist foreign governments. It is also a valuable resource for researchers, advocacy organizations and companies wishing to carry out risk assessments and engage in due diligence on labor rights in their supply chains

Follow up:

After the release of the ILAB report, four House Democrats sent a letter to USTR Michael Forman on December 4th, 2014, asking him to provide details on labor provisions in the TPP. As noted by the lawmakers in the letter: “Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, and Malaysia, one-third of the nations included in the TPP, were all cited for labor abuses in the report…”. “We are following up with you because we believe it is important that you take action to ensure that real, meaningfully enforceable labor protections are in the TPP”.

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

12 thoughts on “US Department of Labor: 28 countries were Found Using Child or Forced Labor in Making Textiles and Apparel”

  1. I think it is a good idea for the ILAB to publish these lists frequently. By publishing up-to-date lists of which countries and which sectors are not abiding by labor laws according to international standards, it will allow U.S. companies who have their products manufactured offshore aware of what is going on. It will also benefit U.S. companies engaging in offshore production by allowing them to take immediate action if a country manufacturing their products shows up on the list.

  2. This updated list of countries that are using child or forced labor should be a serious concern for the US. This chart displays the issues still present today in textile and apparel industry. Labor laws should be reinforced and strictly regulated. Developing countries are continuing to struggle with abiding to these laws. It is important that US companies are aware of these problems to try and manufacture and produce elsewhere. Hopefully this chart will create a reaction for foreign governments to look into these statistics and fix the problem. I am just wondering how the ILAB calculated this data? Did they perform surprise inspections in factories in these countries?

    1. good question! Because Department of Labor is a government agency, so hopefully this helps create some unique channels to get access to the factory. However, please also keep in mind that many garment factories in some poorest developing countries are undocumented and more serious child labor or CRS problems may happen there…

  3. ILAB is great and does and will keep having an impact on American consumers and companies. Americans do feel for undeveloped countries but their consumers and companies will not support child labor. These developing countries are usually overpopulated and can afford to find workers of the legal age to work in the textile departments. How do undeveloped countries expect to grow and develop if their younger generation is not being properly schooled and educated? This is why the process of developing is so long. Because from the beginning the proper steps to achieving a developed economy are not being taken.

  4. While it is very good that this list is being made and raising awareness, if ti does not have company names attached I do not see it having much of an impact on the general public. It definitely has its purpose in helping aid the end of child labor, but announcing cotton is the highest industry children are working in does little for the average consumer. Not much action can be made. In contrast, if I were told companies X, Y, and Z were using this cotton in their clothing than I could more easily choose to boycott them. This list in particular is interesting considering we look at Texas and see how so much of our clothing comes from cotton made in our country. So that alone makes me wonder how much of this child labor cotton we are actually wearing.
    It is all very necessary information, it just does not seem complete enough for consumer use if that is indeed one of its goals.

    1. Good thinking. Personally I believe key audience of the the report is government and policymakers. Some congressman have quickly reacted to the report and pushing for stricter labor laws in future free trade agreement (please see the updates above). Results of the report provide leverage for the US side to push foreign government for a change as well. Remember that corporate social responsibility is a very complicated issue which involves many different stakeholders. government to government dialogue and negotiation is part of the efforts to improve the situation.

  5. I think these lists should definitely be published frequently. Child labor is something that should not go on especially in these working conditions. Many people do not know that a child could be making the clothing they wear in an old unsafe factory, I think that raising awareness would definitely make a difference and keep kids out of the factories. Labor laws are something that should be closely regulated and not messed around with.

  6. I think that it is important to keep updating these lists. People should know where their products are being made and who is making them. Child labor and forced labor is a big problem in the textile and apparel industry. By pushing for low prices, many companies pay minimal wages to their employees to be cost competitive. I think people need to see that this is a big problem. We should not be forcing,or putting people in dangerous working conditions because we want cheap fashion. Awareness needs to be raised. Educating people on this situation is the only way we will see change.

  7. It is so sad to see the list of countries that continue to employ child labor practices, however I feel it necessary for lists like these to be published in order to maintain some transparency in the t&a industry and allow consumers to be more aware of industry labor practices. It is interesting to note how child labor and forced labor are concentrated in developing countries, as the average person in these countries is so desperate to earn money to make a living that they are willing to work under these conditions. Manufacturers are then able to use this desperation to their advantage as these unethical labor practices help them cut costs of production. I really hope that publication of these lists continues to spur action on the part of politicians who wish to advocate for better industry practices.

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