Child Labor in the Fashion Industry

A Glimpse into Child Labor in the Fashion Industry

An estimated 218 million children worldwide are in some form of forced labor. Child labor is defined by the International Labour Organization as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.”1 Child labor in the fashion industry is hidden from the consumer, because it’s buried in the textile and garment supply chain well before someone pulls out a credit card for that new pair of jeans, but that doesn’t negate its harmful effects.

Of the countries most notorious for child labor in the fashion and textile industry, Uzbekistan, China, Bangladesh, Egypt, Thailand and Pakistan lead the way. Children in working in this industry will do anything from working the cotton fields to spinning yarn to high tech spinning. Other types of child labor in factories might include dyeing cloth, sewing buttons, cutting material, trimming threads and folding, moving and packing garments. In smaller or home workshops, children might work on intricate tasks such as embroidering, sequinning, and smocking. They may even stitch soccer balls.2

Even if these jobs aren’t always dangerous, they are still considered child labor in the fashion industry because they meet the International Labour Organization’s definition of child labor. Nearly every country outlaws child labor, which is why companies work so hard to hide it. According to SOMO, manufacturers will often hide children during routine audits, or the children may lie about their age to secure work for their starving families.3

SOMO reported,

“Agents who recruit workers for spinning mills or garment factories have been reported to provide factory management with falsified records about their recruits”4

That’s how millions of children remain in illegal labor situations, such as dangerous child labor mining, without being noticed. Through the years, unscrupulous employers have found ways to hide child labor through this and other tactics.

End Slavery Now has also reported on the ongoing use of children in exporting chocolate, child labor that is grueling and exploits families who have no other means of income. Just like child labor in the fashion industry, these children do not go to school and are deprived of the basic human right of a childhood meant for growth and learning.

Taden understood this both from a child’s perspective and from a father’s.

When he was just a small boy, his father died, forcing him and his mother to work their land as best they could. That meant no school for him, and no matter how hard he worked, he and his mother could never make ends meet.5

Taden grew to marry and have children of his own. With no education or training because of his childhood of labor, Taden could only take labor jobs to provide for his family. Then he had to make a heartbreaking decision.

With seemingly no other options, Taden moved his family to a neighboring country to work in sugarcane fields. It looked like his children would have the same life he did, a life of labor and sheer survival. The circumstances were very difficult—no toilet facilities, no home, no privacy and no school. Taden and his family were mired in their circumstances, with no peace or hope.

While back in their own country on a break from the sugarcane fields, Taden met GFA pastor Naimish. Pastor Naimish brought words of hope and peace to be found in Jesus Christ, who saw and cared for them in every way. The family accepted this truth and started to find peace amidst their difficult life.

The next year, Pastor Naimish invited Taden to a GFA World Christmas gift distribution, and their lives were changed forever. They were given a cow, which provided more than four liters of milk a day. They were able to make and sell ghee, a type of butter, each month. The profit liberated them from the harsh conditions of poverty and from those sugarcane fields. It also provided a way forward for his children: the opportunity for a consistent education.

Taden’s children now had the hope of escaping child labor and the devastating effects he knew all too well.

Taden said,

“We came to know the true love of Jesus in our lives. He has removed all our burdens and sorrows.”

Giving to GFA World’s Christmas Gift program—any time of year—can help end the cycle of poverty and child labor for families and children who seem destined to fight for survival. It may be the gift of a cow or a goat or a chicken. Any of these livestock animals can change the trajectory of the most vulnerable in countries where child labor illegally thrives.

Pastor Naimish was able to help Taden and his family in two significant ways that you can support: sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and providing a sustainable way out of poverty. Give today to ensure more families have hope beyond the fields of slavery and oppression. Give to make sure children like Taden’s never have to sacrifice an education for sheer survival.

Learn more about causes of child labor

1 “What is Child Labour.” International Labour Organization. Accessed February 16, 2022.–en/index.htm.
2 Overeem, Pauline and Theuws, Martje. “Fact Sheet: Child Labour in the Garment Industry.” SOMO. Accessed February 16, 2022.
3 Overeem, Pauline and Theuws, Martje. “Fact Sheet: Child Labour in the Garment Industry.” SOMO. Accessed February 16, 2022.
4 Overeem, Pauline and Theuws, Martje. “Fact Sheet: Child Labour in the Garment Industry.” SOMO. Accessed February 16, 2022.
5 “Moving Poverty Out of the Picture.” GFA World. November 2018.