Governing child labor in a global supply chain Insights from a child labor intervention in India’s carpet industry Akshay Mangla Presented at Just Supply

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  • Governing child labor in a global supply chain Insights from a child labor intervention in Indias carpet industry Akshay Mangla Presented at Just Supply Chains Conference, Stanford University May 16, 2008
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  • Background on child labor in Carpet Belt Based in eastern Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) Pop. 170 million Developmentally backward state Socially and politically fragmented Carpet Belt is largest production region of India 85% of Indian carpets in 2006 Industry is highly export-oriented $620 million export revenue in 2006 Relies heavily on informal production and home-based work in rural areas Estimates for child labor range from 130,000 350,000 Late 1980s witnessed domestic public scrutiny on child labor in the industry Domestic activists focus on state policy for bonded child labor Joined by international activists in 1990s targeting all forms of child labor 80% of exports go to Germany and United States
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  • Challenge of governing labor conditions in carpet supply chain Foreign Buyer Exporter Washer Raw Material Supplier Finisher Dyer Loom Owner/ Weaver Weaver
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  • Three alternative responses to child labor in the Carpet Belt Indian state responds to domestic activism with greater legal enforcement 1986 Child labor Act identifies carpets as hazardous sector in accordance with ILO Convention 182 Chief strategy to deter child labor (ages 5-14) through inspections, fines and legal prosecution 1987 National Child Labor Project (NCLP) directs resources towards rescue and rehabilitation Labor Dept. primarily focused on factory and bonded child labor Informality and conflicting legal norms complicates implementation CLA does not apply to informal or home-based production Private sector responds to activism and consumer sentiment with social labeling initiatives Chief strategy to monitor suppliers and reward (penalize) good (bad) behavior Various labels emerged with little coordination between them E.g. STEP Rugmark, Kaleen, Care and Fair Child labor identified according to Indian legal definition but with focus on home-based weaving implementation challenge due to geographic scale, informality, and disaggregated supply chain UNICEF-IKEA Bal Adhikar Initiative A community-based intervention that addresses supply side causes of child labor Involves local NGOs working at the community-level Identify target communities and at-risk families with help from local NGOs and IKEA suppliers Strategy includes social mobilization, alternative schooling, and womens Self Help Groups (SHGs) UNICEF abides by U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Initiative recast definition of child labor as non-schoolgoing children Challenge of gaining community support and mobilizing residents under conditions of poverty, child labor norms, and existing caste and gender hierarchies
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  • Local NGOs harness the moral basis of social capital to facilitate change Work through existing norms and hierarchies to gain legitimacy and community participation Morally sensitive language Street plays conveys injustice without offending Women qua mothers mobilized as social change agents Network of community members monitor school enrolment Alternative school run by residents SHG members, teachers and even children monitor attendance Shared moral understanding provides framework for negotiating tradeoffs Yet the same strategies that facilitate change also constrain it Parents cannot be coerced into sending children to school Drawing on caste identities may hinder concerted public action on a larger scale Working around state agencies can limit sustainability
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  • Summing up Child labor can be addressed in a global supply chain Social and political factors keep children away from school, not just poverty Governing child labor in a global supply chain requires contextual knowledge: industry, legal conditions, state resources, local institutions, as well as moral norms and hierarchies that govern society Methods of top-down regulation by the state can address some forms of child labor but also may lead to greater informality Under conditions of informality, geographic dispersion and organizational fragmentation, standard monitoring approaches are constrained Participatory interventions have more flexibility to work within communities to effect change from the bottom-up Yet community participation carries a price as global child labor norms may clash with local norms and developmental states Some local norms and hierarchies are highly resistant to change State is still the legitimate provider of public goods and services Challenge of working with state agencies despite weak rule of law In large federations like India local interventions can have spillover effects