Labor in the Carpet Industry
Children working in a carpet factory
taken by Mathias Heng during undercover Mission
funded by the Society. Copyright Mathias
manufacturers and the carpet export industry in
Pakistan, as well as carpet importers and retailers in
the USA and other Western countries, have announced that
child labor no longer exists in the carpet-weaving
industry. They have attacked UNICEF, the Society and
other charities as "do-gooders", the phrase
used by the Chef Executive Officer of the largest carpet
importer in the United Kingdom.
The ordinary American consumer, with family commitments
and a mortgage, does not have the time and money to
travel to Pakistan to verify these claims.
do you believe?
and the other charities like this Society have no
financial interest in making such claims. The
carpet industry does.
Since these claims have been made by the industry, the
Society has funded a Mission to Pakistan which shows the
extensive use of children in the industry. Many of
them, as you can see, are very young.
photographs on this page are from a recent undercover
investigation in Pakistan by the Society, which revealed
that young children still work in horrific conditions
making carpets which we buy and put in our homes.
The photographs are black and white because the
sweatshop is very dark and the use of a flashlight on
the camera would have alerted the master to that
photographs were being taken secretly.
handmade woolen carpet industry is extremely labor
intensive and one of the largest export earners for
India, Pakistan, Nepal and Morocco. During the
past 20 years, it has been one of the fastest growing
industries and most of this growth has been achieved
through the use of child labor.
work long hours for very little pay. Indeed, in
many cases [...], they may receive no pay whatsoever”
total number of children involved in the industry in
South Asia is very difficult to assess, but in India the
South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude estimates that
between 200,000 and 300,000 children are involved, most
of them in the carpet belt of Uttar Pradesh in central
numbers may be working in Pakistan and up to 150,000 in
years the industry claimed in its propaganda
that the nimble fingers of children are
essential to form the intricate designs used in
claim has long been discredited and the most expensive
carpets are generally made by adults, with children
producing the low and middle grade carpets.
are two main advantages of child labor to the carpet
their very low wages and their docile acceptance of
terrible working conditions;
their good eyesight, which allows them to perform
intricate work in very poor light.
a result, many of the children, who may begin working as
young as 6 or 7 years old, are severely ill by the time
they are adults.
eyesight is damaged and lung diseases are common
as a result of the dust and fluff from the wool
used in the carpets.
make matters worse, many of the children employed in the
industry have been separated from their families.
carpet industry is very complex, but is generally
controlled by the export companies. These
exporters arrange, either directly or through
contractors, for a carpet to be produced on a particular
loom. The looms are normally owned by small
entrepreneurs and range from single looms in private
houses to small factories with 30 or more looms.
The exporter supplies the wool and design and after a
price and quality is agreed, the loom owner is
responsible for producing the carpet to
specification. Agents for the loom masters and
owners find their workforce from a variety of sources.
children may be their own children and other children
from within the village. These remain in their own
child labor may also be obtained from other areas
(normally poorer regions) by purchasing or coercing
children from Bihar in north-east India to Uttar
Pradesh; or from small villages in Nepal to Kathmandu;
or from outlying villages to small towns in Pakistan;
and even children trafficked from other countries, such
as children imported from west Nepal to Uttar
Pradesh. Removed from their families, these are,
without doubt, the worst sufferers.
the children work long hours for very little pay.
Indeed, in many cases, particularly when they
live at the looms, their wages are reduced to pay for
food and lodging, or they may receive no pay whatsoever,
for example, where the loom owner applies their wages to
cover the advances given to their parents and the agents
who brought them in the first place. This is a form of
debt bondage (which is defined as a slavery-like
institution by Article 1(a) of Article 7(a) of the
Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery,
the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar
to Slavery 1956) and is quite common in the industry
throughout South Asia.
great many of them are children who have been
kidnapped by slavers from their parents and sold
to the loom master.
are locked behind bars and beaten. They are poorly fed
and receive no wages.
the past ten years, there has been a gathering movement
in India, Pakistan and Nepal to end the exploitation of
so many children in the industry. This activity
has been supported by the Anti-Slavery Society. As
a result, the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of
Slavery and the International Labor Organization have
called on the Union Government (ie, the federal
government) in India and the federal government in
Pakistan to enforce their own laws and to stop the use
of child labor.
material in this report is based on a Mission to South
Asia by the Society's Secretary-General.
SOCIETY IN ACTION
As mentioned earlier, the Society recently
conducted an undercover investigation in Pakistan,
some of the photos from which appear on this page.
The Society is also funding undercover rescue
missions to raid slave factories to free child
IS THE SOCIETY IN ACTION
I CAN DO?
Click on the icon below to learn what you can do
free these children.
more information, read the Society’s
publications entitled Myths and Facts About
Child Labor ($2.90) and Survey of Child
Labor in Asia ($15.50). Prices include
April 03, 2007
to other pages dealing with this issue:
rugs and carpets
made by child labor
overseas programs in Africa and Asia
forms of child labor
to other pages dealing with consumer awareness:
made by child labor
made by child labor
Asian Coalition on Child Servitude
police free bonded child laborers in the carpet industry
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