International Day Against Child Slavery sheds light the often overlooked, yet global issue of modern child slavery. Modern slavery refers to “situations where one person has taken away another person's freedom - their freedom to control their body, their freedom to choose to refuse certain work or to stop working - so that they can be exploited” (Minderoo Foundation). This is an umbrella term which encompasses bonded labor, human trafficking, and child labor.
But exactly how many people are impacted by modern slavery? Well, The Global Slavery Index (2016) outlines that more than 40 million people worldwide were living in slavery, 4.3 million of which were estimated to be children aged below 18 years old (International Labor Organization, 2017). According to UNICEF, “in the least developed countries, slightly more than one in four children (ages 5-17) are engaged in labour that is considered detrimental to their health and development.”
The Global Slavery Index 2016, estimated that 45.8 million people were enslaved globally and that 58% of the millions were coming from India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan where they provide low-skilled labor for industries such as technology and the textile production.
According to the Verisk Maplecroft annual Child Labor Index (2019), countries which produce large amounts of raw materials for textile production such as cotton and silk are at “extreme risk for child labor” this is because the work is typically low-skill and “employers prefer children for picking cotton because they have nimble fingers” (Vosper, 2019) (The Center for Research on Multinational Corporations, 2014). Child laborers are working throughout all stages of the fashion supply chain from cotton seeding to yarn spinning in mills, this is in turn interfering with the rights of children outlined in three main international conventions which classifies child laborers as those who are “too young to work or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social, or educational development” (UNICEF).
The responsibility is in the hands of manufacturers and consumers alike. Fashion is often used as a form of outward expression, but together through transparency and traceability, we can ensure that our expression is not at the expense of enslaved children.
 The international labour organization (ILO) Convention No. 138, No. 146, and No. 182.
Note: Hailey Matarese HXN collaborator