February 20, 2020
Authored by: BCLP, John Kindschuh, Nicole Bigby and Merrit Jones
The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has allocated $22 million to target the growing issue of abusive labor practices in the fashion industry, and specifically, to combat the use of child and forced labor in supply chains, especially in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Clothing production is booming. In fact, according to a report by sustainability consultant McKinsey & Company, clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014. The global market now produces more than 100 billion garments a year, according to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. At the same time, driven by “fast fashion,” the amount of wear we get from clothes has dropped by 36 percent, with almost 65 percent of all garments ending up in a landfill or being incinerated.
With more clothing being produced, production supply chains have already become a concern, raising concerns for the potential of forced labor, human trafficking, and/or indentured child labor. The DOL estimates that there are currently 25 million people in forced labor, and of those, over 4 million are children.
There are efforts to counteract this problem. For example, the DOL maintains a list of products (and corresponding locations) that are believed to be at higher risk of being produced by forced or indentured child labor. Importantly, there probably many more international occurrences that are not identified on this list.
Where Are the Funds Going?
According to the DOL, the funding will be used to:
- Support the International Labor Organization’s work with