Are we making progress towards eliminating child labor?

Berit Knaak & Dorothée Baumann-Pauly

January 2024

Research collaboration with FarmStrong Foundation

Child labor is a key concern for companies with complex global supply chains. Particularly in the agriculture sector, child labor remains common. Remedying child labor effectively requires understanding complex root causes, as well as economic, political and socio-cultural drivers.

Despite significant investments from the public and the private sector and some progress, child labor estimates are stagnating, global targets to eliminate child labor are unlikely to be met or have already been missed and the current estimated number of child labor cases show insufficient systematic improvement.

The white paper Are we making progress towards eliminating child labor? A root cause analysis in the cocoa sector in Côte d’Ivoire (PDF) focuses on the emblematic case of child labor in the cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire where 40 to 45% of the world’s cocoa is grown. Cocoa growing secures the livelihoods of approximately 6 million people (i.e., 20% of the population). The most reliable reports estimate that one in three children in cocoa growing areas of Côte d’Ivoire work in child labor on family farms (around 800,000 children).

In this white paper, we map the root causes of child labor and the intervention strategies that companies, civil society organizations and governments have engaged in to address these root causes at the community, country, and industry levels. Based on expert interviews, we then analyze these approaches to mitigate child labor risks and propose a way forward.

From our analysis, it is clear that holistic approaches are needed to reinforce dynamics that keep children out of child labor sustainably. Landscape approaches promise to resolve complex issues such as child labor by fostering collaborations between private and public actors and by addressing interconnected root causes in a defined geographical area. However, landscape approaches are not easy to implement and their success will hinge upon all actors’ willingness to coordinate and contribute to a spirit of shared responsibility.

White paper (PDF)

Publication’s cover

Media coverage