Using Apps to Help End Child Labor

Unfortunately, today I come with a more depressing topic than what we’re used to in Digital Transformation. We’ve spoken a lot in this class how technology can be a force of good for corporations and consumers, but it can also be used to help those in the supply chain. Around the world there are still very serious exploitations of labor throughout the supply chain. I’m sure everyone remembers hearing about Nike’s or some other corporations’ overseas sweatshops from years ago. Unfortunately, these are still very present in our global society despite not hearing about them every day. This includes child labor, forced labor, and forced child labor. Global estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicate that there are 160 million children in child labor and roughly half of them in hazardous conditions.

DELHI, INDIA – JANUARY 30: Indian labourers work at a construction project in front of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on January 30, 2010 in New Delhi, India. The Commonwealth Games are due to be held in the Indian capital from October 3-14, 2010, but concerns remain over construction of its sporting and transport infrastructure. The sheer scale of the project has drawn an enormous population of migrant workers from all over India. This week the High Court of Delhi has sought a response from the Government over the alleged failure to provide all the benefits of labour laws to workers involved in construction work for the coming Commonwealth Games. Workers are being paid below the minimum wage in order to complete these projects whilst also being forced to live and work under sub standard conditions. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Child laborers are found carrying heavy loads on farms, scavenging in garbage dumps, enduring physical, emotional, and verbal abuse as domestic servants, and fighting as child soldiers in armed conflict.

The ILO also estimates 25 million people are trapped in forced labor, including over 4 million children. Children and adults are forced to climb into mineshafts in search of diamonds and gold, confined on fishing vessels by deceitful labor recruiters, and trapped in bonded labor while toiling in the extreme heat of brick kilns. With efforts from governments, workers, and employers, there has been a decline of 86 million child laborers since the year 2000, but that still isn’t enough.

Sweat and Toil

That is why the US Department of Labor have created Sweat & Toil: Child labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking Around the World. Not the catchiest of names, but it is an app that is a comprehensive resource documenting child labor and forced labor worldwide. It uses data and research from  Findings on the Worst Forms of Child LaborList of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor; and List of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor. This app fits these three information-packed reports the size of a phone book in the palm of your hand. Six things you can do with this app are:

  1. Check countries’ efforts to eliminate child labor
  2. Find child labor data;
  3. Browse goods produced with child labor or forced labor;
  4. Review laws and ratifications;
  5. See what governments can to do end child labor; and
  6. Browse USDOL’s projects to combat child labor and forced labor.
A screenshot of the labor exploitation of Mexico in Sweat and Toil

This app can be a starting point for many consumers to empower themselves with knowledge about child labor or forced labor around the world. It is a great example of how compounding great amount of data and research on a very complicated issue into a single app can make it much more accessible for the common person. Keeping the users and consumers more aware and allowing change to happen better than any infographic or YouTube video can.

Comply Chain

This isn’t just a people issue either, this has very real effects on companies as well. Child and forced labor in supply chains present serious and material risks to companies and industries. That is why the US Department of Labor has also created Comply Chain: Business Tools for Labor Compliance in Global Supply Chains. Once again, not the greatest of names for an app. But it does a great job illustrating the content involved.

This App targets companies and industry groups seeking to develop robust social compliance systems for their global production. This app is great for companies that do not have a social compliance system set up or are wanting to strengthen their existing system. Comply Chain provides a step-by-step guide on critical elements of social compliance for all companies.

A solid social compliance company includes:

  • Engaging stakeholders and partners
  • Assessing risks and impacts
  • Developing a code of conduct
  • Communicating and training across the supply chain
  • Monitoring compliance
  • Remediating violations
  • Independent review
  • Reporting performance and engagement

These eight areas are all broken down and have many examples of specific good practices that are already being used by different companies, industry groups, and multi-stakeholder initiatives.

These two apps are great examples that I’ve been able to find that benefit both companies and the humans that work in their supply chains. I want to know if there are any other apps or good resources that the rest of you know that can be used to best help people, whether it’s forced labor or some other harm, that any of you might know!

Here is a link to find out more about Sweat and Toil and Comply Chain: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/apps

7 comments

  1. DropItLikeItHox · ·

    Very interesting topic, and extremely timely too with today’s class focusing on ethics. As a consumer, I’m extremely interested in the Sweat & Toil app. I’m constantly reading on reddit that I should never purchase a nestle or nike product, and while these companies have been outed as more ethically irresponsible, I’m sure there are hundreds more that haven’t had that same type of negative publicity that’s likely hidden within the reports that this app leverages.

  2. Nice post. A topic doesn’t have to be happy to be important. I’m sure many companies would love to have greater transparency into these issues in their supply chains, as it has often come back to haunt some brands when it’s discovered.

  3. yanamorar · ·

    This is a great post and a difficult topic, so thanks for sharing! Unfortunately, child labor is difficult to find as companies try to hide this due to fear of public retaliation. I have wondered whether there are any sites allowing consumers to be informed regarding child labor in certain countries. I will download these apps and support businesses that do not involve child labor as part of the supply chain.

  4. greenmonsterbc · ·

    Really Interesting post and I appreciated the deep dive analysis. Considerations of utilizing digital technology to combat real world problems are perhaps the best application of 21st century inventions. I’m also curious to know what private or public companies make considerable donations of time, materials, and resource to combat this issue in addition to the government agencies you’ve outlined.

  5. Tanker 2 Banker · ·

    Thanks for raising awareness on these apps. Since you asked a couple useful websites for safe travel are the State Department’s Travel Advisory page: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/ ; and the CIA’s World FactBook: https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/ . Maybe this falls into the category you are looking for too, Kaspersky’s Real Time Cyberthreat Map (prepare for a light show): https://cybermap.kaspersky.com/ . Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of Bot Net Activity today in Moscow Russia, MIT here in Boston, and Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA.

  6. rjperrault3BCCGSOM · ·

    Nice post Conor. A topic that is difficult yet necessary to talk about. I think it often goes overlooked here in the United States. I’ll be taking a look at some of these resources just for curiosities sake. What has always interested me is the components that get lost in the many cycles of the supply chain. For example a company might promote that it’s suppliers don’t take advantage of child labor laws but it might be challenging to see what goes on with their supplier’s supplier’s etc.

  7. bengreen123 · ·

    Awesome stuff, I think that it’s so easy overlook this stuff. At the end of the day, so many goods technology comes from an inhumane source. It’s somewhat fitting that technology can shine a light on it and hopefully put an end to it.

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