The Workforce in Africa’s Largest Cocoa Industries is Still Children

Nearly 20 years after the world’s major chocolate manufacturers pledged to abolish employment abuses, hazardous child labour remains rife in their supply chains, a new study finds. Research from the University of Chicago finds that more than two-fifths (43%) of all children aged between five and 17 in cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and Ivory Coast – the world’s largest cocoa producers – are engaged in hazardous work. In total, an estimated 1.5 million children work in cocoa production around the world, half of whom are found in these two West African nations alone. Hazardous work includes the use of sharp tools, working at night and exposure to agrochemical products, among other harmful activities. The report, commissioned by the US Department of Labor, notes that the overall proportion of children working has gone up by 14 percentage points in the past decade. The increase is accompanied by a 62% rise in production over the same period. The findings raise difficult questions for industry in particular. Back in 2001, big brands such as Nestlé, Mars and Hershey signed a cross-sector accord aimed at eliminating egregious child labour. Despite missing deadlines to deliver on their pledge in 2005, 2008 and 2010, they continue to insist that ending the illegal practice remains their top concern.

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