NEW YORK– Workers as young as 15 are making toys and clothing for the American retail chain Target announced a report released today by China Labor Watch.
CLW has recently published an investigative report that documents instances of child labor at three different manufacturing plants that supply finished goods to the American-based retail chain Target. Those three manufacturing plants are the Ningbo Lucky Craft Co., Ltd.; Hangzhou Ownseas Pen Co, Ltd.; and Dongguan B&N Industrial Co., Ltd factories. In each case, these factories were found to employ laborers between the ages of 15 and 17 years old. Child laborers are made to work between 11 and 13 hours per day in return for little compensation. They are required to perform the same tasks as adult workers, working under very dangerous conditions and operating industrial assembly machinery with little or no safety equipment or training. In order to conceal their presence in the factory from outside auditors, child laborers are not issued factory identification cards or given the opportunity to sign a labor contract. This further marginalizes their presence in the factory and leaves child laborers more vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment.
A significant discovery to come out of this report is confirmation of the widespread suspicion that the majority of child laborers are employed at smaller factories that employ less than 300 workers. With 200 employees, the Ningbo Lucky Crafts factory is one such factory. CLW investigators found evidence of 30 or more child laborers working between 11 and 13 hours per day under dangerous conditions at Lucky Crafts. One interviewed worker admitted to investigators that shehad only just turned 15 years old but had already been working at the factory for three months. The prevalence of child labor at these smaller factories is due to their ability to work under the radar of government and outside inspectors. Often these factories go unregulated and workers have neither access to reliable institutions of redress nor effective legal enforcement to protect their rights.
Li Qiang, the executive director of China Labor Watch, states, “Investigations carried out by CLW researchers have beyond a doubt confirmed the presence of child laborers atNingbo Lucky Craft Co., Ltd.; Hangzhou Ownseas Pen Co, Ltd.; and Dongguan B&N Industrial Co., Ltd factories. While each of these factories actively denies and hides the existence of these child laborers, it is naïve to believe that Target and other global companies are not aware of there presence on the assembly line. The silence and indifference these global companies express when confronted with this knowledge only helps to make the problem of child labor more widespread and accepted in China.”
Child labor continues to be a serious and widespread problem in China’s manufacturing industry. In China, a minor is defined as anyone under the age of 16. Child laborers are usually coveted workers at manufacturing plants because of their sharp motor skills and flexibility. These characteristics are thought to allow them to perform specialized assembly tasks better and faster than the average adult laborer. Poverty and the inability to pay expensive school tuition fees are common factors that lead children to seek out full-time employment at factories. While there are strict laws prohibiting the employment of minors, a lack of industry regulation and proper auditing mechanisms allow child laborers to go undetected at factories. As a result, it has been very difficult to document specific cases of child labor and prosecute those offending factories.
Solving the problem of child labor in China begins with multinational companies like Target. Only through a concerted public effort that scrutinizes these multinational companies’ business practices can they begin to reform working conditions in these Chinese factories and rid them of child labor abuses.
China Labor Watch is an independent non-for-profit organization based out of New York City that advocates on behalf of Chinese laborers and seeks to improve working conditions in China through advocacy campaigns and investigative reporting.