Study: In the Interest of the Child? Child Rights and Homeworkers in Textile and Handicraft Supply Chains in Asia

Photo: panellists and participants at the Hong Kong launch of the study on May 31, 2019.

There is currently little information available on the impact of home-based production on children or on child rights in general, despite the fact that an estimated 300 million people are thought to be producing goods from their homes. While many homeworkers may work independently and cater to the direct needs of the end-user, a large portion of homework is linked to larger supply chains, where homeworkers act as subcontractors for factories or collection centres, which then enter national or international markets. 

Homework in supply chains in general is a sensitive area for many companies due to its informal setting, and so far, very few brands have developed strong solutions for managing homeworkers in their supply chains. They also know very little about the conditions or situations in which the children of homeworkers are growing up and the impact that their parents’ work has on their rights to education, protection and a healthy upbringing.

The aim of this study was to provide data on both the positive and negative impact of home-based work and work in small workshops on child rights and to identify best practices to improve child rights in such settings. The research was initiated by Save the Children and conducted by The Centre (formerly CCR CSR) with the support of Nest.

579 workers with 952 children were interviewed, including interviews with 37 working children and 50 children of homeworkers. Ten international companies were also surveyed. These homeworkers are located in seven countries –  China, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Vietnam –  and the majority (78.8%) work directly from their homes. The others work either in small workshops (18%) or at other people’s homes (3.2%).

The study found that the working conditions, pay and personal protection vary greatly amongst home and small workshop workers, and great differences can be seen between countries, urban and rural areas, products they are producing and whether or not they are producing for the international market. As a result the impact on children also varies greatly, bearing both risks as well as opportunities.

Key challenges identified: 

  • Many buyers have not or have only sporadically identified where and when homeworkers contribute to their production.

  • The excessive involvement of children is a risk in homeworkers settings. This risk is rooted in the fact that a majority of homeworkers are affected by poverty and that their income is generally very low.

  • Home-run businesses are less regulated than small workshops, with high risk of forced labour. Working age children need decent job opportunities that comply with special laws and regulations on working hours and protection for young workers. 

  • There is a risk that families are not ready to talk about the involvement of their children, especially in communities who know that their buyers don’t tolerate child labour.

However, the study also found that homework brings opportunities as well: 

  • Homework settings can have some clear benefits for children: they are breastfed longer, are less often left home alone and stay in school longer. 

  • The positive impact of homework however can only offset the intrinsic risks of homework if a proper environment can be guaranteed. 

  • The positive impact of homework seems strongest where homeworkers are visibly integrated in supply chains. 

  • While child labour in all its form should be prevented, honest conversations with homeworkers about the involvement of their children should take place. 

In addition to shedding light on much-needed data on child rights in homeworker settings, this study also puts forth numerous recommendations for companies to help kick start long overdue conversations and actions on supporting children in homeworker settings. We hope that this study can be a trigger for creative positive, long-lasting change. 

Read/download the full report and infographic on this page. For questions or queries, please contact us

About the study launch

“In the Interest of the Child? Child Rights and Homeworkers in Textile and Handicraft Supply Chains in Asia” was first launched in Berlin on May 24, 2019 and hosted by Zalando. Over a dozen key company representatives explored ways to create greater visibility and possible monitoring with suppliers within the home-worker setting, as well ways of enhancing a positive impact on child rights in the homeworker setting.

Another launch was held in Hong Kong on May 31, 2019 hosted by The Mills Fabrica. Close to 50 companies attended, exploring everything from visibility & monitoring, challenges & risks, opportunities and collaboration during a breakout session and panel discussion. 

Published on   31/05/2019
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