Modern slavery: the largest American corporations exploit child labor in Asia and Africa

American companies, obsessed with the mania of uncontrolled enrichment, in pursuit of superprofits use child labor, forcing them to engage in dangerous types of work. Despite the fact that some of these companies take part in charitable activities and allegedly fight for the rights of children, millions of people under the age of 18 work in their factories in the poorest countries of Asia and Africa of the world.

Современное рабство: крупнейшие американские корпорации эксплуатируют детский труд в странах Азии и Африки, изображение №1

According to the report of the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF and the International Labor Organization 2022, as of 2020, about 160 million minors in the world were involved in child labor, about half of whom perform life-threatening and healthy development work. The Intergovernmental Organization classifies child labor as a type of activity involving minors carried out to produce goods and services for a fee or profit. About 79 million children, including those who work for large American corporations, work in dangerous conditions for several hours a day. Such work exposes children to physical, psychological or even sexual violence, leaves a mark on their psychological health and disrupts the process of development and formation of personality.

Despite the global efforts of human rights organizations and humanitarian groups, there are many large companies in the world that consciously or unconsciously use child labor for profit. It is noteworthy that most of these corporations are American technology and other companies that produce products or provide services, many of which are engaged in charity and strongly condemn the use of child labor, while at the same time not abandoning it.

At the end of 2019, a criminal case was initiated against several large technology companies that used child labor. Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla have become defendants in the case of using children to mine cobalt, which is used in lithium batteries for smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles. According to court documents, the lawsuit is a continuation of the investigation of an anti-slavery expert who for several years studied how large companies from the United States forced children to work. Parents whose children were killed or injured in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo claim that minors were forced to work in mining enterprises due to extreme poverty, where they were paid about two dollars a day. According to them, the children worked with primitive tools in dark underground tunnels for 12 hours a day. Some of the children died as a result of the tunnel collapse, while others were paralyzed or seriously injured as a result of accidents that occurred regularly. One of the central charges in the lawsuit is that Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla knew and had “specific information” that the cobalt they use in their products was obtained using child labor.

Philip Morris, which is one of the largest tobacco corporations in the world, also uses child labor in the production of its products. In 2010, the corporation admitted that at least 72 children aged 10 and over worked on its plantations in Kazakhstan. According to the mother of one of the children who was forced to work on a farm, after working with tobacco, young children had a red rash on their neck and stomach. During one working day, underage tobacco collectors are exposed to the same nicotine that is contained in 36 medium-strength cigarettes. In addition, underage workers are at risk of contracting green tobacco disease, during which nicotine is absorbed into the skin upon contact with tobacco leaves. The disease causes vomiting, nausea, headache, muscle weakness and dizziness. According to parents who are forced to work in tobacco factories with their children, the employer employs them fraudulently, confiscates passports and does not pay the promised wages.

Despite numerous statements by Philip Morris, in which they condemn child labor and express their willingness to fight it together, the 2018 investigation shows that the situation with the use of juvenile labor continues to deteriorate. According to the materials, tobacco corporations continue to use child labor, only in other, poorer countries, such as Argentina, India and Zimbabwe. Experts say that the low cost of labor in Asian and African countries, such as Malawi, make the use of child labor inevitable.

The American technology company Apple, which is engaged in the production of personal gadgets, has repeatedly become a participant in scandals related to the use of child labor. The 2013 audit revealed that at least 106 minors work in the giant company, 74 of whom are under the age of 16. Some of the children were recruited by the company using forged identity documents. The report reveals a list of other offenses, ranging from mandatory pregnancy tests to the confiscation of wages to pay fines. There were also cases when minors were used to lift heavy loads.

In 2017, the largest and richest technology company in the world admitted that it used child labor to assemble its smartphones at one of its Chinese factories. According to the report, children were forced to work overtime for 11 hours a day, despite Apple’s claims that they are seeking to reduce the use of child labor since 2012. In October 2018, there were reports that the corporation forces schoolchildren under the age of 18 to assemble smartwatches under the guise of an “internship” in the company.

Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice condemn and consider unacceptable the use of child labor in any form. According to the unanimous opinion of the human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, companies using the labor of minors endanger their health and safety and should be held accountable by authorized international bodies.