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Forced Child Labor Still a Major Problem

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Child labor, says U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, continues to be a serious global “problem in 21st century society” and says the United States “must do everything in our power to end these shameful practices.”

Solis’ comments came with the release earlier this month of three new reports by the Labor Department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). The central report is a list of goods believed to have been produced by child or forced labor and it includes 122 products from 58 nations.

The report includes many products companies around the globe use as raw materials for finished products that are purchased by U.S. consumers. They include cotton, sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, rice, cocoa, bricks, garments, carpets, footwear, gold and coal.

Brian Campbell, International Labor Rights Forum director of policy and legal programs, calls the new list:

a critical tool that consumers and businesses can use to identify the sectors where forced and child labor abuses continue…this list helps to focus attention on problematic sectors and the challenge now is to implement business practices that lead to higher labor standards and living and working conditions for workers.

Click here for the report, “2008 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.”

The department also released a report on the worst forms of child labor. “The Department of Labor’s 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor” documents incidents of child labor in some 122 nations and 19 territories that are U.S. trading partners. It also examines their efforts to combat child labor.

The third report is a proposed update to the child labor product list of 29 products from 21 nations to the list of products made by child labor. Click here from more information.

Child labor and forced labor, says Solis:

are inexcusable abuses of human rights….These individuals are among the world’s most vulnerable, and we have a moral duty to help and protect them.

It is also important to note that these are global challenges. All countries—including the United States—face situations of labor abuses. Allowing such practices to persist impedes the development of decent employment that can support families both in the U.S. and abroad.

In June, Solis announced that the Labor Department, which already funds 220 anti-child labor projects in 82 countries, will provide more than $60 million for programs to address exploitative child labor. These programs will provide education and vocational training to children and help their parents find alternatives to child labor.

For more information, visit the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center here, and Ithe nternational Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor here.


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