Rapid research confirms COVID-19 crisis creates extreme hardship for informal workers and families in South Asia

November 30, 2020

Findings indicate expected uptick in child and worker exploitation




WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2020 – GoodWeave International, a leading nonprofit working to end child, forced and bonded labor in global supply chains, has released “Hidden and Vulnerable: The Impact of COVID-19 on Child, Forced and Bonded Labor.” The new rapid research report confirms informal workers and their families in carpet, home textile and apparel supply chains in India and Nepal have suffered extreme hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Documented income loss, indebtedness, school closure and migration indicate there will be an uptick in child, forced and bonded labor conditions.

The research was conducted in June and July 2020 with technical guidance from Siddharth Kara, British Academy global professor and Rights Lab associate professor of human trafficking and modern slavery, University of Nottingham, and senior fellow, Harvard School of Public Health. A UBS Optimus Foundation grant funded the report, as well as enabled GoodWeave to provide urgent COVID-19 relief to workers and families.

“This report represents the most in-depth study yet of the damaging impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on workers at the bottom of textile supply chains in South Asia. The data reveals immediate and longer-term consequences on vulnerable populations, especially children, that must be addressed as soon as possible by brands and key stakeholders in order to avoid losing so much of the progress we have made,” said Kara.

“There were 152 million child laborers around the world making products we purchase every day prior to the pandemic, down nearly 40% since 2000, according to the International Labor Organization. This research confirms there is now significant risk these gains will be lost,” said Nina Smith, CEO of GoodWeave International. “We hope it informs companies, governments and other stakeholders about how to take specific and urgent action to ensure immediate relief and longer-term resiliency.” 

Key report findings include:

  1. Workers have seen significant disruption to their income.
  2. The pandemic has exacerbated forced labor risks to workers.
  3. The combination of school closures and decreased incomes places children at increased risk of child labor.
  4. Females have experienced more severe impacts from the pandemic than males.

Data in the report was collected through interviews with informal workers in the two countries and three sectors. Findings show an urgent, short-term need for governments, civil society organizations, and brands and suppliers sourcing in the region to help workers with their basic needs while addressing longer-term structural causes of their extreme vulnerabilities.

“I’m worried about how I and my children can survive,” shared a female migrant carpet worker in Nepal whose husband went abroad to Malaysia to find work and married another woman. Since the pandemic, reduced orders have significantly decreased her income.

As production ramps up, it is important to address labor rights for all workers, living wages, ethical recruitment practices, as well as issues such as worker financial literacy and access to banking. The report provides 14 recommendations for NGOs, governments, and companies and brands to follow which protect vulnerable children and workers, and ensure resiliency in supply chains.

Download the report

About GoodWeave International
GoodWeave—a nonprofit organization founded in 1994 by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi—is the leading global institution working to end child labor in global supply chains through a market-based system and holistic approach. We bring visibility to global supply chains; protect informal and marginalized workers; provide assurance that products are free of child, forced and bonded labor; and restore childhood to vulnerable children. Look for the GoodWeave® certification label on select products.

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