Over 152 million children are involved in child labour worldwide, with 72 million working in conditions that are seriously hazardous to their health and wellbeing.

It is a violation of children’s rights to force them to sacrifice their health, their education and their future to work. To combat this, Terre des Hommes is working with companies to check their commercial supply chains are completely free of child labour.

Terre des Hommes is applying this pressure to two sectors rife with child labour – cotton and mica.
Mica is a shiny mineral mined from the ground. Over a quarter of all mica mined across the globe is used in the electronics industry – including cars, laptops, smartphones, computers, razors, hairdryers and any product which contains an electronic board. It is also included in paint and cosmetics to make them sparkle.

Child labour is used to mine mica in India, Madagascar, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Brazil. In India, 9 in 10 mica mines operate illegally – employing some 22,000 children.

These children are at serious risk of pneumoconiosis – a lung condition caused by inhaling dust – and frequently collapse due to the heavy loads they have to carry and the chronic malnourishment they endure.

Terre des Hommes is part of the Responsible Mica Initiative – a cross sector association of private, public and non-profit actors looking to make every mica supply chain socially responsible within the next five years.

Three key pillars underline how the Initiative works to achieve this. Firstly, fair and sustainable ways of mining, collecting and processing mica must be developed across the Indian mica supply chain. Secondly, the communities reliant on mica must be empowered to make these positive changes permanent.

Finally, the Initiative will work with the Indian authorities to produce legislation guaranteeing mica is mined safely and sustainably, and that mica communities can thrive once these laws come into effect.

Child labour in the cotton industry

Child labour is also prevalent throughout India’s cotton industry, with children earning less than $1.50 a day and working in dangerous conditions for up to 12 hours at a time. Terre des Hommes works to encourage children in India at risk of becoming trapped in child labour to go into education or vocational training instead.

As well as these programmes in India, we are expanding our work across Asia to focus on eradicating exploitative child labour through all points of the cotton supply chain.

From cotton production in India to spinning mills in Bangladesh and the fast-developing garment sector in Myanmar, Terre des Hommes will implement specialised activities to improve the livelihoods of children and their families, while also building corporate policies to stop children being endangered and exploited.

With millions of children trapped in exploitative and dangerous work across the globe, and the Sustainable Development Goals aiming to end child labour completely by 2025, now is the time to act. This World Day against Child Labour, we must remember that projects such as these are essential in turning the dream of a future without child labour into a reality, and will help guarantee that no child will have to sacrifice their future to work in exploitative conditions.