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The truth about child labor in the tea industry

You would probably think that in 21st-century child labor and child exploitation is a thing of the past. However it is one of the oldest problems in our society and still an ongoing issue.

There are so many children out there who are being exploited daily and have been turned to domestic servants. Child trafficking is a form of child labor as well. This means kidnapping children for the purpose of slavery, exploitation as domestic maids, prostitution, and drug dealing.

Our focus, however, is on child labor in the tea industry. This is a fast-rising industry. New tea brands and modern tea types appear on the market almost everyday. 

But how are these teas made? How are they produced? What are their sources?

These are the questions you should ask as a consumer before you purchase any tea.

In which countries child labor is common?

Child labor is still a widespread problem especially in developing countries. According to the US Department of Labor, the countries where child labor is common are Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, India, Rwanda, Burma, and Uganda. 

In Western Uganda, studies and research have shown that about 40,000 children worked as tea pickers due to their state of poverty, and they earn just 30 US cents, which is barely enough to pay for meals. 

Also in Malawi, because of the low income their parents get from tea picking, most children work on tea plantations.

In Sri Lanka, most of these children tea pickers are subject to sexual, physical, and mental abuse. Tea pickers have been underpaid for years with a minimum wage of 500 rupees.

Indeed, the case of child labor in the tea industry is a case that should be meticulously dealt with as it breaks all the rules of human rights.

Child labor in India

India is one of the biggest tea producers in the world. However, labor practices are often unethical. Why? Forced child labor is against the autonomy of children.

India has made already some efforts to tackle child labor. Despite this, 56.4% of children aged 5–14 work in agriculture and 33.1% work in industry.

The main cause of child labor in India is the lack of schools and poverty. Sometimes Indian children are forced into labor to pay family debt.

Some claim that tea workers in India face problems of child labor and exploitation because they have a long history of colonialism. The rate of school dropouts among the children of tea pickers is extremely high in India as their parents earn very little to sustain the family. As there is too much work for tea pickers, they are forced to bring their children to meet the demand.  

Despite the free mid-day meals provided at school, drop out rate is still high, especially at the ages of 11-17, which is the age in which children are regarded as employable for domestic work. In India, tea pickers get a daily wage of Rs 167, and some others, Rs 145. This is equivalent to as much as 1.8 – 2 euros per day.  

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Causes Of Child Labour In The Tea Industry

There are so many factors that could lead to child labor in the tea industry, and here are a few of them:

  1. The poor living conditions of tea pickers and their families. Majority of these tea pickers can barely cater for themselves and their families. As a result, they pick tea to fend for themselves, involving their children in the process.
  2. Low payment, wages, or income. The low wages being paid to tea pickers make them involve their children in the tea picking job.
  3. Insufficient food– In a bid to have more food to eat, children are involved in the tea picking process.
  4. The need to survive. The need to survive makes most children engage in tea picking.

International Measures to Fight Child Labor In The Tea Industry

Research has shown that some of these tea pickers are promised benefits by their employers in the form of incentives, education, medical help, and food. At the end of the day, these promises turn out to be empty as they are never fulfilled. Unemployment in rural areas where tea is produced does not give much choice to local communities. 

Some measures have been taken by both individuals and organization to address this important issue. 

One of these organisations is The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF). This United Nations agency has been working hand in hand with tea companies and industries to improve and improve the lives of children affected by the tea sector. They provide basic needs for these children, along with education.

Also, the California Transparency in Supply Chain Act helps to fight child labor in the tea industry. They ensure that tea producers and manufacturers that generate over $100 million per annum  publicly prove that child labor and exploitation did not occur at any time during the production. 

Different Ways To Combat Child Labor In The Tea Industry

While organizations are doing their own part to fight child labor in the tea industry, individuals can also play their part.

So how can consumers help to fight child labor in the tea industry?

  1. Consumers can use their purchasing power to change how tea pickers are treated. This they can do by asking tea companies for information on the labor used in the production of their products. In this way, they can avoid tea brands that do not provide reasonable or concrete information on the labor used in the production of their tea.  
  1. They can also help by taking advantage of different conscious consumer options made available through some tea companies. One of such tea companies is Yatea, which supports fair trade tea and other campaigns fighting child labor in the tea industry. What is fair trade tea? This type of tea comes from companies that have signed the Campaign for Fair Food.  The Good Tea Guide has also been made available to help customers and individuals purchase only tea free from child labor exploitation.

What consumers like you can do about it?

We should not underestimate the purchasing power of individuals as a way to fight big corporations practicing unethical child labor. 

Yatea provides a tea of organic origin produced without child labor and exploitation. We are a dedicated online tea store that takes pride in bringing you fair trade tea of highest quality. 

As a support to fight against child labor in the tea industry, we partner with campaigns fighting this crime. Our vision is to make a positive impact on the health of people with the help of tea and herbs sourced in an ethical and sustainable way. 

Each tea you purchase contributes to our donation for Organisations like International Initiative to End Child Labor and Global March.

Let’s join hands together to fight child labor in the tea industry. Your purchase of Yatea is your support and donation to this cause. 

Yatea runs a campaign to support Organisations like International Initiative to End Child Labor and Global March. Join us and donate for this cause:

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