Study on cocoa production: child labor for chocolate

A new study proves exploitation in Africa in cocoa production. In Ivory Coast and Ghana alone, 1.5 million children are affected.

A girl carries a basket of cocoa pods at a plantation in Luwu, Indonesia Photo: Yusuf Ahmad/reuters

Sweet cocoa without child labor? For the Inkota network, an association of non-governmental organizations founded in 1971, that sounds unlikely. Consumers in Germany must assume that there is a high probability that their chocolate bar contains exploitative child labor, Inkota stressed on Tuesday, referring to a new study by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.

The document is 300 pages long and, following field research in 20, concludes that in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana alone – where about 70 percent of West Africa’s cocoa comes from – some 1.56 million girls and boys between the ages of are forced into child labor. Virtually all of them are exposed to at least one hazardous activity, according to the report, i.e. night work, carrying heavy loads and using chemicals. The latter in particular is becoming an ever greater danger. In general, almost every second child in a family that grows cocoa has to work.

Yet chocolate manufacturers such as Nestle have been stressing for years that "child labor is simply unacceptable". The consumer goods company Unilever writes on its homepage that it wants to trace the supply chain "100 percent". The Mars Wrigley company immediately commented on the study: "Child labor has no place in the cocoa supply chain, which is why Mars Wrigley has committed $1 billion to fix a broken supply chain as part of its ‘Cocoa for Generations’ strategy."

However, such assurances to improve conditions and, in particular, effectively combat child labor have been around for years. Various seals of approval have emerged to vouch for fairly produced chocolate. But nothing has changed, which is also a result of the study: Between 2013/2014 and the current investigation, the situation has not improved. On the contrary: if cocoa production increases – as it did by 62 percent from 2008/2009 to 2018/2019 – the demand for labor also grows.

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