The IKEA Foundation’s 2013 annual report celebrates a year of exciting achievements and a growing commitment to global development.

Established in 2009, the IKEA Foundation is the philanthropic entity associated with IKEA, the popular Swedish home furnishings company. In the past year, the foundation has gained 12 new partners and donated 101 million euros to those partner organizations, contributing to the continued implementation of innovative children’s programs. With the support of a new Brazilian partner organization, the IKEA Foundation has also been able to reach children in South America for the first time. In addition, a number of partners have also started to develop emergency shelters for displaced refugees.

Compared to the total monetary donation in 2012 (82 million euros), the IKEA Foundation’s 2013 contribution saw a 21 percent overall increase in giving. IKEA’s Soft Toys for Education campaign raised 10.1 million euros and helped 11 million children. Moreover, the foundation’s projects throughout 2013 impacted children in 35 different countries.

The IKEA Foundation focuses on four areas of development: fighting child labor and promoting children’s rights, improving the lives of refugee children and families, empowering women and girls as well as disaster relief. The foundation also funds education projects for children and works to change current social attitudes towards child labor in developing communities. In 2013, the IKEA Foundation helped UNICEF and Save the Children fight child labor in India and Pakistan. By reaching out to farmers, families and other community leaders, the foundation hopes to raise awareness of the dangers that children face in the workplace – specifically, in the cotton, carpet and metalware industries. Additionally, the foundation’s new partnership with Care for Children is helping place orphans into supportive and loving families in Asia.

In conjunction with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the IKEA Foundation is working to develop safer and more durable emergency shelters for refugees. Innovative additions (such as solar lighting) are expected to increase the lifespan of current refugee camps. Last year, UNHCR began experimenting with the reworked shelters in Ethiopia, taking into account the feedback provided by refugee families living in the newly developed camps.

The IKEA Foundation continues to support KickStart, a partner organization that trains women in southern Africa to grow and sell crops, launch their own businesses and establish a reliable income. The foundation also expanded the number of scholarship opportunities for women and girls to get an education. Currently, the IKEA Foundation’s partnership with the Lila Poonawalla Foundation helps 1,900 poor Indian women pursue higher education in fields like engineering, agriculture and healthcare.

By giving cash grants to its partners, the IKEA Foundation strives to help families immediately after disasters and other conflicts. During the past year, partner organizations used IKEA’s grants to provide medical care to Syrian refugees. After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, many partners brought emergency supplies to devastated communities. The IKEA Foundation itself has donated IKEA toys and products to around 1.2 million affected children around the world.

The IKEA Foundation has clearly expanded its goals and reached several new milestones in 2013, but CEO Per Heggenes believes that the foundation has more to offer. “The journey continues,” he wrote, “and we still have lots to accomplish.”

– Kristy Liao

Sources: IKEA Foundation
Photo: INiTs

Child Labor
Child labor is work that steals a child’s childhood. Defined in International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions, child labor is work that children should not be involved in given their age, or – if that child is old enough – work that is too dangerous and unsuitable.

Forcing children to take part in often dangerous and strenuous work and preventing them from attending school, child labor stands in the way of a child’s healthy physical and mental development in addition to his or her education.

In some cases children are enslaved laborers, engaged in the agricultural, mining and manufacturing sectors, or in domestic service, subsequently pushed into homelessness and living on the streets. However, others are trafficked and enslaved in prostitution, or forced into armed combat as child soldiers. These are all forms of child labor; the latter qualifying as some of the worst forms of child labor given that such bondage is especially harmful and in direct violation of a child’s human rights. Child labor is a continuing global phenomenon and following are some shocking, but important, facts regarding the practice.


Important Facts about Child Labor


  1. Currently, there are nearly 30 million people held in slavery and an estimated 26 percent are children.
  2. In 2012, 168 million children – from 5-years-old to 17 – were involved in child labor. Of this number, 85 million worked in hazardous conditions, enduring beatings to sexual violence.
  3. Around the world one in six children are forced to work, with children below the age of 18 representing between 40 to 50 percent of laborers.
  4. Children living in more rural areas can begin working as young as the age of five.
  5. According to the ILO, an estimated two thirds of all child labor is in the agricultural sector.
  6. The highest proportion of child laborers is in Sub-Saharan Africa where 49 million children are forced laborers.
  7. The highest numbers of child laborers are in Asia and the Pacific, where over 122 million children are forced into work.
  8. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are over 300,000 child soldiers forced into armed combat.
  9. In most regions, girls are just as likely as boys to be involved in child labor; however, girls are more likely to be involved in domestic work.
  10. According to the ILO, only one in five child laborers is paid for their work, as the majority of child laborers are unpaid family workers.

So why are some children forced into labor?

Poverty is the most often cited reason why children work. Pressured to provide food and shelter, as well as to pay off debt owed by the parents, some children have no other choice but to become involved in labor in order to support their families. However, some children are sold against their will and forced into slavery. Other factors that influence whether children work or not include barriers to education and inadequate enforcement of legislation protecting children.

Child labor is a complex issue, as are the solutions, but the following steps must continue to be pushed for in order to see further progress. First and foremost, child labor laws must be enforced. Another strategy would be to reduce poverty in these areas so as to limit the need for children to be forced into these situations. Finally, providing access to quality education ensures that each child has a chance for a better future.

Rachel Cannon

Sources: UNICEF 1, International Justice Mission, UNICEF 2, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, International Labour Organization, UN 1, UN 2
Photo: Flickr

In 2012, CNN’s Freedom Project released a documentary called “Chocolate’s Child Slaves,” where CNN reporter David McKenzie went to the Ivory Coast to investigate child labor issues. The investigation came 10 years after the Harkin-Engel Protocol (Cocoa Protocol) was signed into law in September 2001.

Cocoa is a major export in West Africa, with 70-75 percent of the world’s supply of cocoa beans grown on small farms in the region. In this area, many children grow up in extreme poverty and have to begin working to support their families. Some children are even sold by family members to human traffickers or to owners of cocoa farms, or abducted from villages in nearby areas, including Burkina Faso and Mali.

Ghana and the Ivory Coast currently produce about 70 percent of the world’s supply of cocoa and also have an extreme child labor problem. Any children who work on cocoa farms or plantations are exposed to health hazards, use dangerous equipment and tools and are subjected to physically demanding work. Many of these children are then also unable to go to school.

In 2001, U.S. Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced legislation to require a labeling system to be put into place in the chocolate industry. The ultimate compromise between the government and the industry was to require chocolate companies to volunteer to certify they had stopped using child labor.

Eventually, the “Cocoa Protocol” required African governments to publicly release information and also included the creation of an audit system and ways to alleviate poverty in the area by 2005. This deadline was moved to 2008 and then to 2010, but today, many say that the requirements have still not been met in the area.

Two years after the release of CNN’s Freedom Project’s documentary, CNN went back to West Africa to see if any progress had been made in fighting child labor in the $110 billion industry. It is now estimated that up to 800,000 children work in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast and live in extreme poverty.

In addition, the cocoa industry in West Africa is struggling to meet increasing demand for chocolate around the world. The demand is largely coming from emerging markets, with about 1.3 million people in China beginning to buy chocolate more frequently.

In order to deal with this major increase in demand as well as fight both poverty and child labor, many chocolate companies have started to invest their money in the farmers, many of whom are the poorest members of the population.

Nestlé’s “Cocoa Plan” plans to spread awareness about the issue of child labor in the industry and to also build schools in rural areas in the Ivory Coast. Nestlé has also pledged $120 million to be given over a period of 10 years, and are planning to give 12 million new disease-resistant and high-yielding cocoa trees by 2016.

American company Cargill has its own “Cocoa Plan,” and has founded 1,200 schools in the Ivory Coast to teach good agricultural practices to 60,000 farmers. By educating these farmers, they hope to end child labor.

Many hope that collaboration between chocolate companies, governments and NGOs will be enough to alleviate poverty in West Africa, which many consider the source of the child labor problem. For now, the consensus among all groups is to help farmers and their families get out of poverty and prevent young children from being forced to work and endanger themselves.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: CNN (1), CNN (2), Food Empowerment Project, International Labor Rights Forum, Huffington Post

Do you own an iPhone? How about an iPad? Technology juggernaut Apple Inc. recently published an audit of the 451 plants, based in Asia, contracted as suppliers for Apple products. Of almost 1.5 million workers, Apple discovered 23 underage workers. Last year, the company discovered 74 underage workers. According to the report, workers could not exceed 60 hours per week.

Apple’s findings fall short in comparison to the growing number of underage workers in the child labor epidemic. What epidemic?

Child labor is the illegal use of hiring or forcing children to work in a business. Commonly, these working conditions are dangerous, hazardous, and inhumane. Not only are children working in dangerous work environments, they are not attending school. According to the University of Iowa, 75 million children did not attend school because of child labor.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 215 million children between the ages of five and 17 working in illegal labor.

Here are some potential characteristics of child labor:

  • Ignores national and global human rights
  • Undermines child labor laws
  • Positions children in dangerous working environments
  • Involves some type of abuse toward the child

Child labor occurs mainly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, child labor occurs across the globe. Here are a list of various industries where children are working:

  • Agriculture. Sixty percent of child labor occurs in commercial agriculture. Children working in this industry work long hours, are vulnerable to pesticides, and receive little pay
  • Manufacturing. Fourteen million children work in manufacturing
  • Mining. Children who work in this industry are vulnerable to physical harm
  • Child trafficking. Over six million children are forced into bondage, serfdom, or sexual exploitation. The New York Daily News recently published an article that exploiting Perusian children being sold into sex slavery

Primary Cause of Child Labor

The primary cause of child labor is poverty. As families struggle to acquire basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing, families become desperate to make ends meet. Here are some facts about the severity of global poverty provided by UNICEF:

  • 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation
  • 1 billion children are deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development
  • 22 million infants are not protected from diseases by routine immunization
  • 4 million newborns worldwide are dying in the first month of life
  • 101 million children are not attending primary school

As these states show, global poverty is a serious epidemic.

Without access to basic needs and steady income, child labor has spread. Anecdotes about child labor are plentiful online. The common thread among these anecdotes is that fact that poor children are being forced to work long hours in dangerous environments, and they are not being paid. Poor safety conditions contribute to the illnesses, deaths, and injuries afflicted on innocent children.

Poor safety perpetuates the cycle of poverty and child labor. As one child dies or becomes terminally ill, another child is forced to work in illegal conditions.

– Leonard Wilson, Jr. 

Sources: Child Labor Public Education Project, NY Daily News, Reuters
Photo: The Hindu

Child labor is defined as labor that children are unqualified to perform primarily because they are either young or too vulnerable for the nature of the work. As such, not all labor that children engage in can or should be regarded as child labor. For instance, labor that does not negatively impact the child’s physical or mental health generally does not qualify as child labor.

Worldwide, there are multiple forms of child labor ranging from agricultural work to mining, manufacturing and domestic service. Other children are trapped in even more malicious forms of labor such as debt bondage, prostitution, drug trafficking, and armed conflicts. Oftentimes, children who are subjected to child labor do not receive monetary compensation but rather informal payment in the form of food and a home.

Today, approximately 168 million children are victims of child labor, with the rates of underage labor highest in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Half of these minors work in hazardous conditions. Furthermore, the United Nations has provided a set of risk factors that impact whether children are vulnerable to forced or underpaid labor. Oftentimes, poverty is the primary reason that children are subjected to labor. These children live in states of such extreme poverty that they are generally willing to endure abuse in order to secure even the paltriest sum of money.

Poverty, however, is not the only risk factor for child labor. Additional major risk factors include barriers to education, culture and tradition, market demand and poor legislation. For example, not all areas of the world have access to adequate education. Oftentimes, the quality of schooling in less developed countries is inadequate. In these situations, children generally opt to work rather than attend a school that they either cannot afford or do not view as useful. To these children, the idea of an immediate monetary reward outweighs schooling, especially when the welfare of their family is at stake.

Furthermore, in less developed countries, parents often reinforce the notion that children should enter the labor force, creating a cycle in which children of each generation successively enter the labor force early.

Due to market demand children are preferred workers because they are less costly to hire than adults. Employers perceive children as easier to abuse and more willing to endure maltreatment.

Lastly, child labor thrives in areas of the world that either do not have sufficient child labor laws or do not effectively enforce these laws.

Since children are developmentally vulnerable in more than just physical ways, exploitations of labor affect them cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally. These disturbances in development may help perpetuate the cycle of poverty – a malicious cycle that can only be broken once the risk factors of child labor are amended and principles of human rights are internalized, thus giving children the opportunity to just be children.

– Phoebe Pradhan

 Sources: International Labor Organization, United Nations
Photo: Curly Girl Chronicles

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 had outlawed child labor in America; however, individuals have managed to find their way around the law, effectively enslaving children, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers, within these laborious jobs. While the 1938 Act outlawed child labor in settings such as an office or a restaurant, the law left the prospect of employing child laborers on farms completely legal. In the United States, many child laborers still toil away on farms, being left vulnerable to heat exhaustion, heavy machinery and dehydration.

According to NBC, thousands of children, some as young as 8 years old, are being exploited, forced to endure grueling hours and equally grueling conditions on farms. These children work for little to no cost in order for the produce industry to put food on America’s table.

Oftentimes, these children are told by their employers to lie about their age in order to circumvent any probing questions. NBC chronicles the exploitation of Ralph, a 15-year-old laborer who works on a Central Valley migrant labor camp with dozens of other children as young as or even younger than he. When asked what farm labor is like, Ralph states, “We get tired and like we get kind of tired and our arms hurt… It is too hard to be in the fields.” Indeed, these children are forced to work the fields even when temperatures skyrocket to 106 degrees.

Furthermore, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) stated that up to 670 children had been killed while working during 1980 to 1989. Seventy percent of these deaths were initiated by violations of child safety laws. Additionally, a follow-up study by the NIOSH in 1992 reported that over 64,100 children were admitted to the emergency room due to injuries on the job.

As startling as these estimates may be, they under-report child labor-related death and injuries by 25 percent to 30 percent. It is difficult to pinpoint the precise rate of child labor in America since many exploitative employers do not report their mistreatment of children and many child laborers often fail to speak out due to fear.

Child labor remains an issue in America, a country that supposedly phased out the exploitation of children in the late 1930’s, largely as a result of a lack of effective legislation. According to Project Censored, the individuals who benefit the most from lack of legislation and awareness are the exploitative industries while young laborers remain perpetual victims.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: The Nation, NBC, Project Censored
Photo: Bored Panda

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has recently emphasized that the Bolivian government should reject proposals to lower its minimum age of employment below 14 years old. President Evo Morales has expressed support for proposals to abolish a minimum age for “independent work” and to lower the minimum age to 12 years old for all other jobs.

Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW,) stated that, “Child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Lowering minimum age of employment is counterproductive and out of step with the rest of the world.”

Reductions in child labor are attributed to increasing access to education, strengthening national legislation and monitoring and bolstering social protection plans such as Bolivia’s Juancito Pinto cash transfer program.

The International Labor Convention stipulates a minimum employment age of 15 years old. Bolivia, along with 166 other countries, is a part of this. The only stipulation is countries whose economy and educational facilities are insufficiently developed may under certain conditions have a minimum age of 14 years old. Bolivia has a reported 850,000 child laborers.

“Poor families often send their children to work out of desperation, but these children miss out on schooling and are more likely to end up in a lifetime of low-wage work,” Becker said. “The Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not support it.”

Human rights across Latin America are struggling with a seemingly intractable dilemma, according to The Guardian. Countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil hope to benefit from the commodity boom in global markets that are fueled by demand in China and other areas of the world.

Social movements across Latin America are helping to remold politics and political discourse. These countries democratization depend on the support of increasingly active social movements in both rural and urban areas.

Along with the protesting and movements transpiring in Latin America, HRW joined the Global March against Child Labor and Anti-Slavery International on January 24. The group sent a letter to Morales completely opposing any sort of movement to lower the minimum age of employment. HRW explained that it would be extremely counterproductive to the Bolivian economy.

Lindsey Lerner

Sources: Human Rights Watch, The Guardian
Photo: Bicultural Mom

Although Nike has established itself as a leading athletic brand and even as an endearing icon of American athleticism, it was not too long ago that the company was publicly scorned for its shameful use of child labor. Since its heyday, Nike had secured its success in part by an efficient, albeit ethically-questionable, business model where its manufacturing was outsourced to underpaid, under appreciated and often underage factory workers. The money that Nike saved by utilizing this business model was often invested in topnotch advertising.

After becoming the face of aggressive mega-business abuses of power and wealth, and suffering markedly due to a dwindling public image, Nike has taken steps to alter its practices and image. In 1998, one of the first significant steps that the company took to change its business model took place with a speech given by then-CEO Phil Knight. Knight proclaimed that “the Nike product has become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime and arbitrary abuse.” Knight further stated that, “I truly believe the American consumer doesn’t want to buy products made under abusive conditions.”

Ever since Knight’s 1998 speech, Nike has enacted an onslaught of redemptive measures, such as the company’s 1999 creation of the Fair Labor Association. This nonprofit group fuses business and human rights in order to maintain a fairer work-place consisting of a minimum age for labor, increased company monitoring and a 60-hour work week.

Furthermore, in 2005, Nike became the first in its specific sportswear industry to publish a comprehensive list of its contracting factories in addition to thorough reports on its factory environments, factory pay and persisting factory issues in order to maintain its still-nascent pledge to corporate social responsibility.

However, despite these amendments to its business policy, Nike is still dogged by allegations of mistreatment in its factories. In 2011, workers at Nike’s Indonesian Sukabumi plant claimed that supervisors would physically and verbally abuse them. Specifically, workers alleged that supervisors would throw shoes at them and equate them to dogs.

In response, Nike has disclosed that such abuses do indeed remain extant in a handful of its factories, thereby acknowledging that the company, despite its immense progress over the decades, still has a long road ahead of itself in order to completely abolish its history of sweatshop abuse. With increased transparency and a continued allegiance to the humane treatment of workers, Nike may eventually be able to recover its public and industrial image.

– Phoebe Pradhan

 Sources: Business Insider, Daily Mail
Photo: An Focal

The United Nations’ International Labor Organization has defined the crisis of child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood.” Child labor circumstances where children are starved of education and universally conventional human rights.

The primary thought a common educated American has of a young child working a job is that it is nonsensical. Children are expected to squander their time enjoying their youth while getting an ample education to prepare them for their inevitable entrance into the workforce.

The United States was not always opposed to child labor. Popular opinion over the legal right for children to work was a foremost subject in the early 20th century. Business owners at the time saw child labor as a necessary component of a growing economy, favoring their “manageable” nature,  lower wages, and assuming that they were “less likely” to strike. They were employed in “mines, glass factories, textiles, agriculture.” Internal strife, growing labor-union movements, and the escalating “political power” of the general American workforce pushed child labor out of favor. On October 24, 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, effectively ending the child-labor debate in the United States.

Was the outside world making effective changes as well? Some did, while others ignored the alteration of the status quo.

Children are still involved in the global workforce at endemic proportion.

132 million children work in the agricultural sector, which accounts for 70 percent of adolescent employment.

Sub-Saharan Africa hosts a majority of these children. The remaining children are located in Asia, and South & Central America. The impression made on many people is that child-labor in the Third-World is in large “sweatshops”, but that has proven not to be the case. Most child labor is based around an “informal economy,” which is based around self-sufficient selling of goods or “laboring long hours on family farms.”

The lack of adequate regulation for child workers allows the exploitation of children in many third world nations. Several of these nations have laws and “accept international treaties” outlawing these practices, but the implementation of these laws on a global scale has been a tremendous failure.

Countless adolescents work from “sun up to sun down” tending to farms, from personal familial subsistence farming to large farming businesses.

Even in modern times, the U.S. agriculture sector is plagued by the use of child labor. The Fair Labor Standards Act included an “exception” for agricultural work which allows “children as young as 12” to work within the industry. Proponents argue many of these workers are involved in family-run businesses.

This argument was a major piece in what allowed the exception in the 1930’s, a nation still reeling from economic collapse and families who needed all the assistance they could to survive. Detractors argued “hazardous occupations” are better administered in other types of work.

Others stated the rule puts children in dangerous conditions on large corporate based farming operations. Zama Coursen-Neff drew a comparison to children working at global conglomerate McDonald’s. Once children react the legal work-age, they can work behind a cash register, but are barred from more dangerous work-activities such as using “the fryer.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health proposed a list of hazardous occupations within the agricultural sector that are commonly allowed, such as “working outdoors in dangerously hot weather” and “driving large farm vehicles.”

Agricultural lobbyists suppressed the proposal in 2011.

Child labor has morphed over the years, but the constant existence of the culture is a troubling sign of the future. Strides have been made to exact a change, but the realities of the situation is dire for the lives of children everywhere.

– Joseph Abay

Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo spent years in Annawadi, a slum outside the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, India. With most people living without electricity or stable income in makeshift shelters, the slum stands in stark contrast to the bustling airport and luxury hotels a few miles away.  Over the course of her stay, Boo followed the lives of the people that call Annawadi home. She describes the stories she heard and the events she saw in her book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

Boo introduces us to many residents such as Asha, who uses the corrupt political climate to gain influence and prestige. Her daughter, Maniu, studies education and rejects many of the gender norms of her society.

Young children in the village compete for short-term jobs at the Mumbai hotels. These children are easily exploited and often work for next-to-nothing in stressful conditions before collecting garbage to sell as scraps and recyclables.

Corrupt police and vague laws govern the people of Annawadi. Mysterious deaths are not investigated, false accusations fly around without evidence and gangs run the streets. Religious tension is obvious as Muslim families are singled out in the predominately-Hindu village.

Though Boo paints a dark picture of poverty in India, there is still hope. International organizations are moving in to help the people in India, especially since the slums of the region are in dire need of schools, permanent housing and job opportunities. The children of the region believe that one day they will have permanent jobs in Mumbai, own a house and send their own children to school.  The young girls in the village also believe that the time has come to stand up for their rights and make a living for themselves.  Furthermore, children are becoming motivated to stay in school while families plan to move on to permanent housing projects.

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, New York Times
Photo: Vintage 3D