(Wage Improvements in Seeds Hybrids) – Child Labour and minimum wages baseline and risk assessment study
Child labour and non-payment of minimum wages in hybrid vegetable seed production in India has received a lot of attention in recent years. Several industry reports by Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Arisa indicate that the seed production sector in India faces several critical and systemic human and labour rights issues. Current wages in the sector are often lower than the legal minimum wage in the region, and although child labour has been greatly reduced in recent years, it remains an ongoing challenge.
In 2021, BASF, Syngenta and Arisa joined forces in a multi-stakeholder collaboration called Wage Improvements in Seed Hybrids (WISH) to strive for minimum wage compliance and tackle child labour in the vegetable seed sector in India.
The four-year WISH project consists of two phases: In the first phase, WISH conducted a baseline survey to map the current status of child labour and minimum wage in the seed production sites where BASF and Syngenta operate, and to develop indicators to measure future project outcomes.
This report is the result of the first phase. Field and production cost data were collected and analysed by Glocal Research and MV Foundation, two India-based organisations, with support from Arisa. The study is not limited to Syngenta and BASF farms, but includes information from several companies operating at the research sites.
Hides & Hardship – Caste-based discrimination in the leather industry in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan
Leather work is seen in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan as dirty and undesirable. Many of the people who work in the industry – and in India the overall majority – occupy marginalised places in society and often lack any other livelihood option. They are vulnerable to exploitation and have little if any possibility of moving forward in work or in life to break the cycle of poverty and discrimination for themselves or their children.
A specific connection between caste and the leather industry can be identified, while a religious aspect is present as well, especially in India. Since religious minorities face many challenges in these three countries, the interlinkages between caste, religion, and leather work cannot be ignored when looking at discriminatory practices in the industry in these countries.
This paper shows that caste and related discriminatory practices, at times specifically interlinking with religion, are high risk factors for businesses that source leather or leather products from India, Bangladesh, or Pakistan. It explains how caste-based and religious-based discrimination presents itself in these countries and how this connects to the leather industry.
Labour abuses in supply chains uncovered – Leather and leather shoes from India
The leather and leather goods industry in India makes a substantial contribution to global demands for leather and leather goods, as well as contributing a decent share to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2019, Indian leather exports totalled about 5.5 billion USD and helped to employ nearly 4.42 million formal workers. All stages of leather production take place in India – from larger export tanneries and factories manufacturing leather goods to smaller workshops and home-based workers stitching leather uppers for shoes by hand. The sector is often associated with poor working conditions, such as low wages, long working hours, health and safety issues, informal employment relationships and challenges when it comes to freedom of association.
New information about the working conditions in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan was gathered for the Together for Decent Leather programme. Three field studies were carried out in each of these countries. In this briefing paper, we provide an overview of the study’s main findings about the working conditions of leather workers in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. This briefing paper turns the spotlight on the leather cluster in Tamil Nadu, and how this cluster relates to the Indian leather industry and export market. An important aspect of this paper is the link that is made with international companies that are related to the Tamil Nadu leather industry – and therefore face potentiel risks in their supply chains. This report is based on the full field study report (which can be found here) published under the umbrella of Together for Decent Leather.
Seeds of Oppression
“Seeds of Oppression”, released by Arisa and CLRA, highlights a slavery-like reality for many workers in Gujarat – mostly migrants from other areas – who work in the cottonseed sector. The abuses described in this report, such as forced labour, sexual exploitation, structural underpayment and appalling working conditions, are still a daily reality in 2021. When these workers question their employers about facts, the narrative is quickly circulated that they are disobedient and this reduces their chances of future employment.
Spinning around Workers’ Rights – International garment companies linked to forced labour in Tamil Nadu textile mills
There is a serious risk that workers are trapped in forced labour conditions in the Indian spinning mills that produce yarn and fabrics for the international clothing and textile industry. Large-scale research undertaken by SOMO and Arisa, of 29 spinning mills in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, presented in the report ‘Spinning Around Workers’ Rights’, has revealed this exploitation. On top of that, the already vulnerable workers in this sector are severely affected by the ongoing Corona crisis.
Leather products from India – Trends in production and trade
Arisa takes part in the “Together for Decent Leather” programme, a three year programme that focuses on bettering the labour conditions of leather workers in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. As part of this programme, overviews of trends in production and trade of leather and leather products are drafted, one for each of the production countries. Arisa published the country overview for India on May 18, in which information can be found on the production of leather and leather products in India, where these are shipped to, and what companies are buying them. Download the report below.
Textile Recycling Unravelled
At a time when the recycling of materials and the drive to achieve a circular economy are high on the agenda, textile collector and social entrepreneur Sympany and NGO Arisa publish the report “Textile recycling unravelled”. The report shows that the textile recycling chain is complex and involves risks on child labour and poor working conditions. It focuses on the city of Panipat in India, where a substantial part of the economy depends on the recycling of imported used textiles, including from The Netherlands. Sympany and Arisa call on businesses involved in these textile recycling chains to take their responsibility and address the existing risks.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Sandstone is widely used in Europe as cobblestones. This report shows that progress has been made as compared to the findings of Arisa in 2005. Child labour has been greatly reduced in the quarries, but it is still common, especially in the cobblestone making in home yards. In addition to child labour, the study also looked at paying minimum wages. The situation here is a lot less positive. Women in particular are discriminated against because they are given other jobs – for which less is paid – than men. The report also shows that silicosis, an incurable lung disease, is a major problem which receives far too little attention.
New report published by Arisa, with a hopeful message. The report “Sowing Hope” shows that in the past five years important steps have been taken to combat child labour in the cottonseed and vegetable seed production in India. Child labour declined, particularly in areas where significant interventions took place to address the issue.
In addition to child labour, the study also examined the payment of minimum wages. The outcome was less positive. The gap between prevailing wages and minimum wages has increased. Particularly women are paid below the minimum wage and are also discriminated against because they are given other – less paid – tasks than men.
Remedies for Indian seed workers in sight?
This report of the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) reveals that despite progress in addressing child labour, seed companies have not fully addressed the issue yet and are largely failing to take sufficient measures to address non-payment of minimum wages, especially for women.
Case closed, problems persist
Social Accountability International (SAI) – a social certification organisation for factories and organisations, and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) – an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations working to improve the lives of workers – have failed to deliver on promises to deal effectively with concrete complaints about abusive labour conditions for girls and young women in the textile and garment industry in South India.
This is the finding of an analysis of the non-judicial complaint mechanisms set up by ETI and SAI presented in a report by the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), SOMO and UK-based HomeWorkers Worldwide (HWW).
Labour without liberty
Female migrants employed in India’s garment factories supplying to big international brands like Benetton, C&A, GAP, H&M, Levi’s, M&S and PVH, are subject to conditions of modern slavery. In Bangalore, India’s biggest garment producing hub, young women are recruited with false promises about wages and benefits, they work in garment factories under high-pressure for low wages. Their living conditions in hostels are poor and their freedom of movement is severely restricted. Claiming to be eighteen at least, many workers look much younger. These are some conclusions from this report by ICN, CCC and GLU.
The dark sites of granite
New research, commissioned by the India Committee of the Netherlands and Stop Child Labour, reveals that modern slavery, low wages, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions are rampant in granite quarries in South India. In some quarries, especially in waste stone processing, child labour is found.
There is an enormous gap in working conditions between permanent workers (mainly supervisors) and casual workers (70% of the workforce). The first group receives safety equipment, insurance and an employment contract, while the casual labourers doing the dangerous manual work, lack those fundamental labour rights.
Do leather workers matter?
Around 2.5 million workers in the Indian leather industry often face unacceptable working conditions that violate their human rights and seriously affect their health. Toxic chemicals used in tanneries often very negatively impact the health of the workers. Less known are the many labour and other human rights issues in the leather industry like wages below the stipulated minimum wage, child labour, the exploitation of home-based workers, the difficulty to organize in trade unions and the discrimination of Dalits (‘outcastes’).
This is in short the plight of leather workers that is described in more detail in this ICN report.
Fabric of Slavery
This research shows that various forms of modern slavery, including child slavery, are found in more than 90% of the spinning mills in South India. These spinning mills produce yarn for India, Bangladeshi and Chinese garment factories that produce for the Western market.
The report Fabric of Slavery exposes the scale on which young girls and women are enslaved by employers who withhold their wages or lock them up in company-controlled hostels. They work long hours, face sexual harassment and do not even earn the minimum wage. Gerard Oonk, director of ICN: “We have raised the issue for five years now, but even to us the scale of this problem came as a shock.”