The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 168 million children worldwide are engaged in child labor, more than half of them in hazardous work. The majority work in the agricultural sector. An estimated 2 million work on cocoa farms in Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana alone.
Child labor is work that harms children because it is performed at too early an age or under dangerous conditions, or stops them going to school. For example, carrying heavy loads, spraying pesticides, or using dangerous tools.
Why does it still happen?
The causes are a mix of social and economic factors. Families feel they need the extra income or labor on their farms. Lack of schools, socio-cultural norms, and lack of awareness all contribute. And in extreme cases, there’s trafficking or modern slavery.
UTZ is working to put a stop to child labor
Child labor is prohibited on UTZ certified farms.
- Children younger than 15 are not employed in any form.
- Children younger than 18 do not conduct heavy or hazardous work, or any that could jeopardize their physical, mental or moral well-being.
- On small scale/family run farms, children are allowed to help their families, but only if: the work does not interfere with schooling; it’s not physically demanding or hazardous; an adult relative always accompanies the child.
- No forced, bonded or trafficked labor is allowed in any shape or form.
UTZ empowers communities to protect children’s rights
Despite the requirements of the UTZ program, it’s impossible to guarantee a complete stop to child labor. No system can monitor every farm 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
On top of this, we know simply banning child labor is not enough. It’s not just about sanctions. Stop a child working on one farm, and they’ll go to the farm next door – or to the factory in the nearest city.
That’s why, working closely with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), we have developed an innovative new approach to ensure that children’s rights are respected.
Farmer groups appoint ‘Child Labor Liaison Officers’ to lead an approach that goes beyond sanctions to find real solutions, through prevention, monitoring and remediation.
Protect children and make sure they go to school. For example:
- Training raises awareness that the place for children is in school
- Improving farmers’ incomes can contribute to preventing child labor. UTZ means better livelihoods thanks to good agricultural practices and higher productivity
Know if, where and when child labor occurs. For example:
- Risk assessments identify where child labor may occur
- Child labor liaison officers maintain relationships within the community
- Internal and external audits identify any cases of child labor
Find practical solutions so the child can go to school or, for 15-18 year olds, vocational training. For example:
- Arranging a birth certificate or a school uniform, which can be needed to attend school
- Requesting more schools from local government
- In the case of trafficking or modern slavery, local authorities are notified immediately
UTZ works with the sector to tackle the causes of child labor
At the same time, UTZ is building a strong coalition through its Sector Partnerships Program, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We are strengthening the capacity of farmers (especially smallholders and female farmers) and civil society organizations in producing countries, supporting them to work with governments and companies to engage in issues like child labor.