It's been estimated that 170 million children are engaged in child labour around the world, with much of the demand for the products they make coming from Europe and the United States. With children in countries like Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and Pakistan still forced to work extremely long, gruelling shifts, child labour continues to be a real problem in the developing world. Currently, 11% of the world's children are unable to go to school without interference from their labour commitments.
There are a number of issues that come with textile supply chains, with child labour not just used for sewing garments together, children increasingly work within all areas of production including yarn spinning and cotton seed production.
One of the most significant challenges facing advocates of eradicating child labour is that textile supply chains are incredibly complex, with many major companies sub-contracting to local factories. With this in mind, it's a regular occurrence to see their own guidelines stretched to the absolute maximum, often without their knowledge. It's even got to the stage where it's commonplace for companies to not know the exact location of their factories.
This however is not the major problem when tackling this issue. Where there's poverty and hunger, it's likely that children will work, even if it's for little money.
Through the Fair Wear Foundation, an American initiative which is looking to improve workplace conditions in the textile industry, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for these children. The Fair Wear Foundation has compiled a code of practices, which now has 120 brands signed to its charter.
This will entail a number of stringent audits that will make sure that a company's supply chain is operating in an ethical manner.
It is also suggested that major companies make it their mission to investigate their factories on a regular basis so that they can guarantee that the workers their sub-contractors are employing are well looked after and well paid.
The presence of organisations like Fair Wear Foundation are extremely important in an industry like textiles which has become so cut throat in times of price. The mission for these organisations will not be complete until every child around the world is working in acceptable conditions and although this may not be possible, it's important that they endeavour to achieve this goal. With child labour declining by 30% from 2000 to 2012, organisations like Fair Wear Foundation are clearly having a substantial impact and it'll be very interesting to see how much progress they can make over the next decade.