Save the Children and The Centre for Child Rights and Business (The Centre) have published a study on Child Rights Risk Assessment of The Textile And Apparel Sector Supply Chain In Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan textile and apparel industry is the single largest export revenue generator in the country, employing 400,000 direct workers and 2 million indirect workers in 2019. As a result of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, many large manufacturing industries in Sri Lanka were forced to suspend their operations due to the risk of the virus being spread in these densely populated workplaces.
To assess and understand the general workplace management and working conditions particularly for parent workers and female workers, and the child rights risks in the sector – including impacts from COVID-19, Save the Children and The Centre conducted a child rights risk assessment in Sri Lanka’s textile and apparel supply chain from July to December 2021. This assessment gathered insights via completed surveys from a total of 388 workers and 205 children of workers in the formal sector.
The study highlights how COVID-19 has brought many ongoing challenges to light in Sri Lanka, including insufficient protection for workers during a crisis, discrimination against women and manpower workers, and an increased risk of child labour. Many of these challenges are especially relevant now as Sri Lanka faces political unrest and an economic crisis.
Key findings from the study include:
The likelihood of children engaging in child labour is likely higher than as officially reported in Sri Lanka
34% of interviewed children of textile and apparel sector workers aged between 9 to 17 years old are out of school, one of the main reasons for dropping out is the need to work
68% of children had difficulty accessing online learning during the pandemic which further increases the risk of them dropping out from school
Factories lack systems to protect juvenile workers, or are excluding young workers from decent work opportunities which pushes them into informal, less regulated sectors
Workers have a low awareness of maternity benefits and lack maternity protections
Children are at severe risk of suffering from malnutrition and related illnesses because of the low income of their parents, medical costs associated with illness can exacerbate access to nutrition further
Wage discrimination exists, with manpower and female workers are paid significantly less that other workers
Some Water, Sanitisation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities are lacking in the workplace, with a lack of access to adequate toilets
The report puts forward several recommendations for brands and suppliers to address identified child rights risks at Sri Lankan textile and apparel factories. These include strengthening maternity protection; committing to the decent jobs for youth agenda, establishing comprehensive policies and robust systems for child labour prevention and remediation, paying a living wage within the textile and apparel industry, strengthening education and childcare support.
Download the full report below to access the detailed findings.
The Centre has an established team in Sri Lanka who is available to deliver support on child rights issues. Our flagship Mother and Child-Friendly Seal for Responsible Business is supporting Sri Lankan businesses to embed the wellbeing of mothers and their children across their supply chain operations.
Contact us to learn more about The Centre’s child rights projects and services to support businesses sourcing from Sri Lanka.
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