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Gap Explores New Measures to Prevent Future Child Labor Abuses

Gap Explores New Measures to Prevent Future Child Labor Abuses

"The industry should now come together and make a strong commitment against child labor and the trafficking of children for forced labor in their entire chain of supply and sourcing. This should not only be in words but in a clear and concrete plan of action."
- Bhuwan Ribhu, The Global March Against Child Labor

November 5, 2007 —

In the wake of one of the most damaging child labor scandals of the past few years, The Observer is reporting that Gap Inc is looking into a new measure that would be the first of its kind in the retail clothing industry.

On Oct. 28, 2007, the Guardian Unlimited reported:

Despite Gap's rigorous social audit systems launched in 2004 to weed out child labour in its production processes, the system is being abused by unscrupulous subcontractors. The result is that children, in this case working in conditions close to slavery, appear to still be making some of its clothes.

After the incident, representatives from Gap flew to New Delhi to consult with the Global March Against Child Labor about possible methods for certifying all Gap clothing as "child labor free." One of the proposals being considered would allow consumers to track down every link in the manufacturing chain of each garment.

What would be the signifance of such a system? Most importantly, the Gap would be legally liable if the company's contractors were found to use child labor or to operate in slave-like conditions in the future. Although the company already pledges to have a commitment to keeping its business free of child labor, legal liability takes the obligation to a higher level. It's much more likely to ensure that Gap takes every possible oversight measure to protect the company's reputation and bottom line.

Comment on this article:

sadashivan's picture

Gap Explores New Measures to Prevent Future Child Labor Abuses

Submitted by sadashivan on November 14, 2007 - 09:52.

The best practice for GAP, Wal*Mart, Ikea or other textile importers would be to establish own production units with dyeing, stitching machines, finishing and packing in rural village. Over 70% of tailors and garment workers migrate to urban cities to work for sub-contractors of garment or home furnishing exporters. Majority of them are either illiterate or semi-literate so don’t know what child labor ( ) issue is? For them the issue is survival in expensive urban cities raising money for future life in their own village. Most important factor is that job is unstable so can not settle down at one place; move from one unit to another to get better wage as they are on wage per piece produced and wage decided by demand and supply. Under such circumstances, giving education in schools to children is not easy. For them education to their children is learning survival skill that children learn through child labor ( ). For them child not only learns practical skill rather also earns for home. They find their children future more secured than the unemployed graduate in developing world. So they seek help of their children to contribute towards home. Nearly 80% of garment and home furnishing exporters get production done through sub-contractors (fabricators). For exporters having own unit in urban cities is presently not viable due to lack of sufficient finance or increased capacity to meet order quantity, labor issues and expensive affair. Most exporters of urban cities outsource their production from small unorganized stitching and embroidery, button-hole (kaj) units located in either unauthorized or poor residential areas of the cities. For illiterate or semi-literate sub-contractors such places are convenient and cheaper to operate. Such areas are beneficial to avoid government attention, escape labor laws and other benefits too to cut cost of production. A packed garment or home furnishing piece in the rack of a store of an importing country goes from many hands and stages from raw cotton, polyester or other fiber to finished and packing stage. If Garment export units are located in rural villages from where the workers migrate, would be of more help to them towards earning and avoiding children from child labor. Rather would help generating jobs in more areas of manufacturing accessories like; button, laces, threads, machine accessories, hand embroidery and etc;. Child labor ( ) elimination depends on improving living standard of the parents. Avoiding contractors or subcontractors is minimizing extra cost would fetch more benefits to direct buyers and the garment workers. Finally, a unit with all manufacturing facility in rural village from weaving to packed shipment would fetch minimum 25% cost reduction.

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