Consumer awareness
A whole range of goods produced by child laborers are sold in the West: cheap skirts, shirts, the hand-knotted carpets so popular here, toys (which they will never play with), bangles, brassware, locks, glass and embroidery products, polystyrene cups, matches and textiles.

The Society publishes a Consumer Alert listing products made by child labor and is working with a number of reputable retailers and importers on the problem.

The Society’s aim is to stir our conscience by pointing out that some of the products which we purchase are made by these child laborers.  Child labor is not just a problem for the people of distant countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  It is also a problem for us, because by using products made by children we are the unwitting beneficiaries of child labor.

As long as we do not care whether or not the products which we purchase are made by child labor, governments will continue to avert their eyes from the plight of these children.  

Fair trade products. The basic theory behind fair trade is that by creating new markets of informed consumers, good working practices with fair wages for the workforce can be encouraged in the producer states. Café Direct is a brand of ground coffee sold in the UK. It provides a fair price to the producers in the Third World and, at the same time, encourages non-exploitative working practices. The plan is to take this one stage further with the introduction of the Fairtrade Mark. Following in the success of “environmentally-friendly” goods, the Fairtrade Mark is to be applied to products which can be shown to be “people friendly”. The Fairtrade Foundation Limited was established by a coalition of UK development charities to provide another model for international trade. There are currently three fair trade organisations in operation: The Fairtrade Foundation Limited, which operates in the UK; TransFair International, which represents TransFair organisations in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Austria, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Japan and the Italian Republic; the Max Havelaar alliance, which has autonomous partners in the Kingdom of The Netherlands, the Kingdom of Belgium and the Swiss Confederation. The right to use the Fairtrade Mark in the UK is only awarded by The Fairtrade Foundation Limited to those producers who meet a list of criteria drawn up and monitored by The Fairtrade Foundation Limited. These are formulated to ensure that minimum standards of employment are met, and cover issues of health and safety, welfare and housing of estate and plantation workers, and environmental protection. One of the criteria for suppliers is that child labour is not used in the production of the product. Products currently sold under these labels are coffee, chocolate, honey, sugar, cocoa, tea and bananas.

‘Woolmark’. The ‘Woolmark’ label of the International Wool Secretariat is granted to manufacturers who agree to meet certain criteria set down by the International Wool Secretariat. Since October 1993, all Woolmark licensees producing hand-knotted carpets in the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Kingdom of Nepál, the People’s Republic of China and the Kingdom of Morocco have to sign a declaration. However, unlike the Rugmark (explained below), the International Wool Secretariat in London has informed us that there is no monitoring mechanism to ensure that products carrying the Woolmark are free from child labour.

‘Rugmark’. In addition to the ‘Woolmark’, there is the recently created ‘Rugmark’. In August 1994, the Rugmark Foundation was registered in the Republic of India by a consortium comprising the following business associations and human rights organisations: the Carpet Manufacturers’ Association Without Child Labour, the Indo-German Export Promotion Council, UNICEF India and the South Asian Coalition on Children in Servitude. Exporters wishing to use the Rugmark have to register their looms with the Foundation and they will be checked by inspectors. The ‘Rugmark’ label on hand-knotted carpets from the Republic of India indicates that they have not been produced by child labour. The conditions for use of the Rugmark are that the exporters undertake: not use child labour in any area of production; and to pay all workers at least the minimum wage as established by law. It also requires regular school attendance by children working at home on family looms. The exporter will then be given the right to put a label on their carpets, which will carry a code enabling purchasers to check each carpet with the Foundation. Spot checks will be carried out on all looms registered with the Foundation to ensure that they continue to operate without illegal child labour. The first carpets bearing the Rugmark were on sale in January 1995 at Domotex in Frankfurt, the world’s most important carpet trade fair. After full compliance, exporters receive the right to use the Rugmark label, for which they pay a licensing fee. Each label features a serial number so that carpets can be traced to their manufacturer. Importers voluntarily contribute 1% of the export value of the carpets to a fund which, in conjunction with reliable development organisations and UNICEF, supports and establishes schools and vocational training facilities for children. ‘Kaleen’. The Union Government of the Republic of India has also introduced a label. From 1 October 1995, all carpets exported from the Republic of India must have the “Kaleen” label. The label is available to carpet manufacturers who pay 0.25% of the value of exports towards a child welfare fund and sign an affidavit stating that no illegal child labour is being used in the production of their carpets. It is expected that the levy will raise US $1.7 million annually, which will be matched by the Union Government of the Republic of India. Verification will be separately funded. The implication of the “Kaleen” label for the “Rugmark” are unclear at this stage. Similarly, in protest against the conditions of farm animals, a scheme entitled “Freedom Food” has been introduced in the UK. The scheme, run by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in conjunction with two leading supermarket chains, allows producers who meet the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals guidelines for humane farming, to use the “Freedom Food” label on their products. The scheme is monitored by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and financed for by participating farmers. Initial feedback suggests that consumers have been responding to the label, even paying more for products so marked. The scheme is voluntary. The Society publishes a Consumer Alert once a year which lists slave and child labour products. Finally, it may be very difficult for business corporations to ensure that the products which they import, wholesale, market or retail are not made by child labour. The Anti-Slavery Society is currently developing: a black list of contractors and sub-contractors who use child labour; a list of contractors and subcontractors who do not use child labour. The Society is also currently involved in negotiations with the South Asian Coalition of Child Servitude in relation to developing a label for textiles. 


Further Information

For 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 postage.


Links to other pages dealing with consumer awareness:

Current campaigns

Consumer awareness

Goods made by child labor



Carpets made by child labor


Ethical investment

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Fair trade

Society's overseas programs in Africa and Asia

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