Should I support that IKEA uses child labor?
I believe all my readers will support me saying that kids should go to school, not to work. But by the time you have finished reading this blog, you will also agree with me that IKEA is doing the right thing by employing children. But how can it be in the interest of a child to be working?
Child labor has been part of Indian culture for a long time now, in some areas it is even supported by the government. In the areas where child labor is illegal, it is not controlled and therefore generally accepted. Even though the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child where published in 1989, this natually did not change what has been part of indian culture for such a long time.
Global Map of Child Labour Index 2012
The children working for IKEA come from very poor families that need the income of the kid to survive. If the kid would go to school intead of going to work the family would not be able to feed the kid. Therefore the main problem of child labor in e.g. india are not the companies employing the children, but poverty.
Since the mid-nineties, IKEA has been aware that some of ist suppliers employ children. IKEA was committed to do something about the problem, and added a clause to all their contracts that if the supplier employed children under legal working age the contract would be canceled.
This was a natural first instinct but IKEA soon realized that „fireing“ all kids employed would not solve the problem.
Save the Children
After having talked to “Save the Children” IKEA realized that it is important to always do what is in the best interest of the child, which can stand in contrast to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children act.
Since the time IKEA was founded, it always focused on long-term relationships with it`s employers. What IKEA is doing right now is a very long-term project that is doing way more for the community than anyone would expect from a company. Instead of abolishing child labor, IKEA is now fighting poverty in several countries.
Elaine Cohen, a fellow blogger, describes the problem as follows:
The UN makes it clear that child labor must be eliminated, while recognizing that this is the symptom, not the cause, of impoverished communities. Ceasing to employ children could create more problems than it solves, unless appropriate channels to replace lost income are accelerated.
UNICEF rejects to work with partners that do not truly show that they want to improve the children`s lives. Companies that just want to say that they are working with UNICEF but that do not care 100% can not become a partner of the company. In recent years, IKEA has shown on several occasions that they do indeed care.
Jonathan Spampinato, the Head of IKEA Foundation, explains:
People need to get involved. This is a long term commitment. When we started out, it was clear that we wanted to reach millions of children and that it would take time. We wanted to establish a long term program with measurable impact. Now, after 10 years, we are in discussion, planning the next 10 years, and the key metrics that we will track to ensure we achieve our mutual goals.
So, should I?
Yes, you should support IKEA.
By working with Save the Children and UNICEF, IKEA has donated over $125 million to build schools, improve work or living conditions. In my opinion, IKEA has shown that a company can be successful even when not only looking on its profits, but by doing the right thing, the company is not trying to get rid of the problem but wants to solve the problem and that deserves respect.
Next time you are going to an IKEA store, you can feel good spending your money on a company that aims high by trying to solve the problem of poverty in several of ist supplier countries.
What has IKEA done in the last 10 years? A current status report, showing the development:
I am looking forward to hearing your feedback…