How the EU can improve its fight against child labour
MEP for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament and Member of Ecolo
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How the EU can improve its fight against child labour
In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with MEP for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and member of Ecolo Saskia Bricmont. They discuss the pressing issue of child labour and the European Union’s concerning footprint of child labour imports, as well as what can be done to lower it without pushing children into more dangerous activities.
Today we launch two episodes on forced and child labour. In the first episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with MEP for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and member of the German Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) Anna Cavazzini. They discuss forced labour and what the European Union can do to tackle this critical issue, whilst also protecting the vulnerable people who suffer from it. In the second episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with MEP for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and member of Ecolo Saskia Bricmont. They discuss the pressing issue of child labour and the European Union’s concerning footprint of child labour imports, as well as what can be done to lower it without pushing children into more dangerous activities.
In the second part of this podcast we want to tackle another very concerning issue: that of child labour. It is important to distinguish forced labour vs. child labour, aseven though there are child labour situations which can be assimilated as forced labour, in most of the cases child labour is due to the socioeconomic situation of the family and community. This situation has worsened during the pandemic as many families in the Global South have run out of income, and many schools have closed. This has led to a clear increase in child labour within low-income families and communities.
Green MEP Saskia Bricmont has commissioned a study called ’50 Billions Euros: Europe’s Child Labour Footprint in 2019′, published in May 2021. Its main finding is that 2,43% (or 1/41 of all EU imports) during 2019 consisted of products made with child labour. With the authors of the study, they have developed an application where detailed data (disaggregated by regions, countries, and products) can be found.
More than 80% of child labour related imports are coming from 3 sectors: agriculture, electronic and textile. How should the EU tackle this? Development cooperation and EU trade policies is the main response. Unconditional trade bans and sanctions would likely lower child welfare and increase child labour. That’s why an approach to child labour should consider the degree of socio-economic development of the EU trade partners. Therefore, a system of incentives and disincentives/sanctions depending on the country situation, could be put in place. These would consist of general aid (in form of European aid programmes such as the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation instrument (NDICI); conditional aid (premised on performance tied to educational outcomes); conditional market access and trade preferences; surgical import bans; public procurement measures; creation of lists; or rebalancing measures (In order to be in a position to credibly challenge a trade partner on child labour ultimate outcomes, the EU should insert conditionality in re- negotiated and future trade deals, which in turn could trigger “rebalancing measures”).
Other measures concerning mandatory human rights due diligence and Investment Protection Agreements are considered in this study as well. Although the biggest changemakers are policymakers, there are other measures that citizens can take as consumers. They can demand more transparency, consume second hand products based on the circular economy, and educate and raise awareness within future generations on this matter.
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