October 04 (IPS) – Evidence of child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa became public knowledge in the late 1990s. This follows a documented press report on the existence of dangerous child labor on cocoa farms. Pressure is mounting on the cocoa industry to stop child labor, especially from civil society and, more recently, from both US and European regulators.
To meet consumer demand for more sustainable and ethical cocoa, the industry began using certification schemes in the late 2000s. Certification labels, such as Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade, aim, among other goals, to ensure cocoa is produced without the use of child labor.
It is estimated that between one-third and one-half of the cocoa sold worldwide is currently certified.
In September 2001, by approving the Harkin-Engel protocol, the cocoa industry pledged to reduce the most dangerous form of child labor by 70% by 2020. Nevertheless, Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa producer, is still struggling with child labor on its cocoa farms.
In fact, the number of children under the age of 18 (certified or not) working on cocoa farms actually increased between 2013 and 2019 to an estimated 790,000. It is believed that 97% of them are engaged in some harmful work, including clearing land, collecting a cell with cocoa, or applying agrochemicals to cocoa farms.
My new research paper focusing on certified cocoa farmers in C ডিte d’Ivoire argues that the actual number of child laborers is probably even higher, because the child labor system can be biased. The results also suggest that in the case of child labor the certificate is not working as intended.
Child labor in Cocoa
I have seen that the prevalence of child labor is probably being underestimated in research conducted by both researchers and the cocoa industry. This is due to a notion called social aspiration bias, which occurs when people are reluctant to give completely truthful answers about sensitive issues for fear of negative consequences.
In the case of child labor on the Ivorian cocoa farm, certified farmers may lie about their reliance on child labor because any form of child labor is prohibited by their certification scheme. Dangerous labor is prohibited by national law.
Fears of legal, social or economic repercussions are probably forcing certified farmers to report their use of child labor. This makes it difficult to accurately measure the extent of the problem and formulate effective policies to combat it.
A list of my studies depends on the test survey method. It asks respondents about sensitive issues in a more indirect way than standard surveys.
The prevalence of infant child labor using indirect measurements is twice as large as that of direct interrogation. Using the list tests, I found that 21% to 25% of the surveyed cocoa growers relied on child labor over the past 12 months, depending on the type of work. This difference indicates that at least half of the Ivorian cocoa farmers who use child labor on their certified farms are unwilling to admit it.
Why depend on children
The main drivers include labor market failures, lack of school infrastructure and difficulty in monitoring the use of child labor by certified cocoa growers, mainly due to the distance to the farms.
Cocoa production requires a significant amount of physical labor, as many of the tasks associated with cocoa cultivation are not mechanized. In addition, since the price of cocoa in C ডিte d’Ivoire is determined on a seasonal basis, the only way for farmers to increase their income is to increase their production. This requires extra labor.
At the same time, Ivorian cocoa farms continue to be clustered within the cocoa-growing community. This means that local adult workers are scarce because most able-bodied adults are employed on their own cocoa farms, and do not seek labor on other farms.
This failure of the labor market — the need for more workers where they are not available ফলে makes cocoa farmers dependent on child labor. This phenomenon is all the more important when cocoa farms are located in remote communities where there is difficult access to roads. The reliance on child labor by cocoa farmers was then partly due to the shortage of adult labor. This finding further proves that the presence of additional adults in a cocoa-producing family reduces the likelihood of relying on child labor by up to 4%.
I have also found that the prevalence of child labor is higher on more inaccessible farms, which can be explained by weak law enforcement in this area, low availability of adult workers and limited access to school for children due to lack of school infrastructure.
Taken together, these results strongly suggest that child labor rates and potentially other sensitive factors are not being measured accurately. In addition, they show that child labor remains widespread in C ডিte d’Ivoire, even certified as child-labor-free on cocoa farms.
Understanding the various reasons behind the continued use of child labor by farmers and their reluctance to acknowledge this use is an important first step in formulating more effective policies. Given the incidence of social aspirations bias in future research, governments and development partners may be able to address the problem more accurately and inform more effective policy-making.
Marine Zauvin, PhD candidate in development economics, University of Bordeaux
This article has been republished from Conversations under the Creative Commons License. Read the original article.
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