It’s silent in the dark, close room. A boy is sitting on the floor, at a long table – about eight years old, I estimate. He looks at us, startled and scared. It’s evident from the needle in his hands that he’s working. Every day he sews tiny beads onto large robes: thirteen hours at a time, for twelve eurocents a day.
In absolute terms, most child labour is found in Asia, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
Ghislaine Nadaud Senior Advisor Risk, Advisory & Monitoring Sustainable Banking
This was a scene from autumn 2010, in the slums of New Delhi, India. I witnessed a liberation by an NGO called Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA, Save the Childhood Movement). This organisation uses peaceful means to free children from child labour and slavery, and gives them a chance at an education. BBA liberates around a thousand children in India every year.
Child labour: a current and persistent problem
At this moment there are 168 million working children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old worldwide. The three biggest sectors in terms of child labour are agriculture, services such as household labour and industry. In absolute terms, most child labour is found in Asia, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Children there manufacture products that we use in everyday life, such as hand-knotted carpets and beaded jewellery. Child labour is closer to home than you might think. The demand for cheap and compliant labour remains high, and the intricacy of some international production and supply chains makes it difficult for companies to identify problem areas. Basically, this is an intricate problem that is hard to eradicate.
No financing for child labour
ABN AMRO refuses to stand idly by. We do not permit child labour anywhere in our contractors’ supply chains. In other words, we refuse to procure any item if the production process involves children. Moreover, child labour is on the list of operations that we will never finance. If a prospective client does not satisfy our demands, we will not do business.
We can only assess whether a company has ties, whether directly or indirectly, to child labour if we have a proper understanding of the supply chain. We conduct our inquiries not only at the companies themselves, but also at government authorities and NGOs such as BBA. We talk to organisations such as Global March against Child Labour (GM), a worldwide network of trade unions and education organisations.
GM possesses extensive expertise and experience and a valuable network. If we need to learn more about human rights issues in the diamond or cocoa industries, for example, we turn to them. Their information makes it easier for us to screen prospective clients, and to warn existing clients to mind their conduct. We talk to all the stakeholders concerned to help us form a reliable understanding of the supply chain.
Making a difference by exerting our influence
Government authorities have the vital role of protecting children’s rights and enforcing laws. However, eradicating child labour is ultimately the responsibility of companies involved: they have a duty to respect human rights. By incentivising them to change their practices we help create a world without child labour. This is how ABN AMRO can make a difference.
ABN AMRO will host a conference about this theme for Wednesday, 3 December in the auditorium at the main office ABN AMRO, Gustav Mahlerlaan 10, Amsterdam.
Ngo’s Global March en BBA
The driving force behind both Global March and BBA is Kailash Satyarthi of India. For more than thirty years he and his fellow campaigners have been fighting for a world without child labour, where every child can enjoy an education. In 2014 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Malala, the Pakistani girl campaigning for equal rights in education around the world. Their tenacity and enthusiasm inspire others in the campaign to end child labour.