Principle 5: Ensuring No Child Labour or Forced Labour
Sunday, 13 November 2016 | Joanna
Handicrafts like the ones we sell are often too complicated for children to make, and fair trade suppliers' regular inspections of factories and workshops mean they can be sure that children are not employed. Older children are allowed to learn a skill as part of a family business in time honoured fashion and this is a vital part of preserving the traditional handicraft skills which are handed down from generation to generation.
Globally there are some industries where child labour is endemic - for example the West African cocoa industry from where we get 70% of our chocolate. There's a terrible irony in the idea that a treat we give our children is likely to have been harvested by children half way around the world.
I have heard the argument that it's OK to buy goods produced as a result of child labour because otherwise the child's family would not have the money they bring in. This seems logical in a world where a day's work equals a day's pay. In fact most child labour whether on African farms or in Indian circuses involves a form of indentured labour. The child is given or sold to a gangmaster who takes on responsibility for housing and feeding the child, often in appalling conditions. The child does not earn money, since they are deemed not to have any need for money. The only advantage the family gains is they no longer have to feed and house the child. Commonly the family won't see their child for many years, from age 11 or 12 until he or she reaches the age of 15 or 16. At this age the gangmaster would be expected to start paying for their labour but they will often send them back to their family and engage another child for the free labour they provide.
Fairtrade chocolate companies like Divine chocolate work on a completely different model. Not only is the use of child and forced labour completely banned, but the Fairtrade premium is often used to help build schools, buy books, bicycles or buses to ensure children can get to schools further away. The company is 44% owned by the 83,000 cocoa farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo collective who grow the chocolate, so they have a big say in how the company is run.
Chocolate is a treat all year round but especially at Christmas when children's excitement mounts as they open a window on their advent calendar every day and eat the chocolate contained inside. So why not consider making your advent calendar and Christmas chocolates fair trade? They will taste all the sweeter for knowing the chocolate has been produced