Indian children found making clothes for Gap
* Clothing giant claims to be unaware of child labour
* Estimate states more than 20 percent of India’s economy dependent on children
* Gap states subcontractor violated agreement by hiring children
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: Child workers, some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids, according to a report published in The Observer on Sunday.
The weekly said the children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings. It said Gap claimed to be unaware that it’s clothing had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labour. It announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigated breaches of the ethical code imposed by it three years ago.
More than 20 percent: The discovery of the children working in filthy conditions in the Shahpur Jat area of Delhi has renewed concerns about the outsourcing by large retail chains to India, recognised by the United Nations as the world’s capital for child labour. According to one estimate, more than 20 percent of India’s economy is dependent on children, the equivalent of 55 million youngsters under 14.
According to the Observer, Gap has become one of the most successful and iconic brands in fashion but has commonly been criticised for outsourcing large contracts to the developing world. In 2004, when it launched its social audit, it admitted that forced labour, child labour, wages below the minimum wage, physical punishment and coercion were among abuses it had found at some factories producing garments for it. It added that it had terminated contracts with 136 suppliers as a consequence.
Gap statement: Gap said in a statement from its headquarters in San Francisco, “We firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments. These allegations are deeply upsetting and we take this situation very seriously. All of our suppliers and their subcontractors are required to guarantee that they will not use child labour to produce garments. In this situation, it’s clear one of our vendors violated this agreement and a full investigation is under way.”
Cheap labour: Professor Sheotaj Singh, co-founder of the Dayanand Shilpa Vidyalaya, a Delhi-based rehabilitation centre and school for rescued child workers, said he believed that as long as cut-price embroidered goods were sold in stores across the West, there would be a problem with unscrupulous subcontractors using children. “It is obvious what the attraction is here for Western conglomerates,” he said. “The key thing India has to offer the global economy is some of the world’s cheapest labour.”
“Consumers in the West should not only be demanding answers from retailers as to how goods are produced but looking deep within themselves at how they spend their money,” he added.