Human Rights Watch exposes child labor at Indonesian tobacco farms

Originally published on 27 May, 2016

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According to a 119-page Human Rights Watch report released on Wednesday, thousands of children as young as 8 years old work in Indonesia’s tobacco industry, which is the fifth largest in the world.The report includes more than 130 interviews with children who work on tobacco farms in Indonesia. It shows that the child laborers are being exposed to many hazards such as pesticides and nicotine while working on the farms. The report also calls for a traceable supply chain that could better expose and restrict cases of child labor.In some regions of Indonesia, children work alongside their parents at tobacco farms for as little as 73 cents to US$1.10 per day, if they receive wages at all. Their involvement goes largely unnoticed because of a lengthy supply chain that begins with local traders or village leaders pooling together the tobacco from farmers. The trader or village leader then sells the tobacco to a warehouse that repackages the tobacco before selling it to multinational or national tobacco companies elsewhere in Indonesia.According to Reuters, tobacco companies, who rarely question their supplier about their source, then distribute the tobacco to consumers worldwide.Indonesia has policies to counter child labor, and 15 is the minimum age to work, but the report claims laws governing this issue aren’t enforced. Tobacco companies could cut out the middle man and directly contract farmers to eliminate some oversight, but child labor would continue due to limited meaningful penalties, says Human Rights Watch. According to the report, it’s relatively easy for farmers to ignore efforts made by companies to dissuade them from using child labor. Human Rights Watch shared their report with multinational and Indonesian tobacco companies. Several multinational companies said they are currently trying to reduce child labor while none of the Indonesian companies gave a detailed response.


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