Eliminating child labour and forced labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chains: an integrated approach

The CLEAR Cotton project “Eliminating child labour and forced labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chains: an integrated approach” seeks to promote enhanced legislation and policies, to address the basic needs and rights of children engaged or at risk of child labour, and of victims of forced labour, while adopting an integrated area based approach, embedded in a value chain approach including cooperation with local industry and international buyers.

The CLEAR Cotton project is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) and implemented in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

National context

According to the latest ILO-UNICEF global estimates, more than 160 million children are in child labour worldwide. Despite encouraging progress in Asia over the last two decades, the issue is persistent: in Central and Southern Asia, 26.3 million children aged 5 to 17 years old, representing 5.5% of children in the region, are found in child labour situations. In addition, the Asia and the Pacific region present the highest prevalence of forced labour occurrences in the world. Among the 25 million people estimated to be in forced labour in the world, 16.55 million (66%) are found in Asia, that is 4 victims for every thousand people.

The Government of Pakistan is active in fighting both issues. It has ratified the ILO core Conventions related to child labour – the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) – and related to forced labour – the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105). Since the devolution, labour issues are competencies of provincial governments. But evidence of both child labour and forced labour remain in Pakistan, including in its cotton, textile and garment value chains.

The CLEAR Cotton Project aims at contributing to the elimination of all forms of child labour and forced labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chains. Pakistan is the fourth leading producer of cotton in the world with a significant growth potential. The textile industry contributes nearly one-fourth of industrial value-added and provides employment to about 40% of industrial labour force. Textile products constitutes 62% of the national exports and the sector contributes 8.5% towards national GDP (ILO and Government of Pakistan’s data).

Pakistan was also hit by the global Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to the threats to the public health, it could have important economic repercussions on the cotton sector in particular and thus affecting the livelihoods of 1.5 million farmers. The levels of cotton production indeed fell by 34% in 2020 compared to previous campaign (Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association).

Main project activities

Project activities in Pakistan include:
  • Improve access to education of children in or at risk of child labour in cotton production areas through accelerated schooling programmes to reintegrate mainstream schools.
  • Provide vocational and OSH trainings for youth and women to access decent work opportunities in the cotton, textile and garment value chains and adopt safe work practices.
  • Strengthen livelihoods of vulnerable families through training on new income generating activities.
  • Raise awareness of key stakeholders, target communities and the general public on child and forced labour.
  • Develop gender-responsive community-based multi-stakeholder monitoring and remedial mechanisms to combat child labour and forced labour.
  • Provide capacity building of local governments, labour inspectors, employers’ and workers’ organizations.
  • Support the revision and implementation of policy, legal and regulatory frameworks at federal and provincial levels in line with the International Labour Standards.
  • Conduct quantitative and qualitative research on child labour, forced labour and other fundamental principles and rights at work in the national cotton, textile and garment value chains to complement the knowledge base.

Partners

  • Federal Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development; Ministry of National Food Security and Research; Provincial Labour and Agriculture Departments.
  • Employers’ organizations: Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP).
  • Workers’ organizations: Pakistan Cotton Ginner's Association (PCGA); Pakistan National Textile Leather Garments General Workers Federation (PNTLGGWF); Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF).
  • Pakistan Buyers’ Forum.
  • Civil society organizations and the media.

Target beneficiaries

Children and their families working at any level of the cotton, garment and textile production chains; victims of forced labour and workers at risk of forced labour; relevant federal and provincial ministries and governmental departments; employers’ and workers’ organizations; enterprises, and media.

Music Against Child Labour

Winner of the 2021 Music Against Child Labour competition in the CLEAR Cotton in Pakistan category:
Ahmed Faraz, with his song “Faryad”

More info: 2021 Winners | MACL (musicagainstchildlabour.com)