A new study from the University of Chicago has revealed a rise in child labor in global cocoa production despite pledges by international companies to stop using cocoa harvested by children.
According to the study, commissioned by the US Department of Labor, more than two-fifths (43 percent) of all children aged between five and 17 in cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and Ivory Coast (the world’s largest cocoa producers) are engaged in hazardous work.
In total, an estimated 1.5 million children work in cocoa production around the world, half of whom are found in these two west African nations alone.
The report said the hazardous work includes the use of sharp tools, working at night, and exposure to agrochemical products, among other harmful activities.
The overall proportion of children working has gone up by 14 percent in the past decade, said the report, noting that the increase was accompanied by a 62 percent rise in cocoa production over the same period.
“As the overall production of cocoa increased dramatically, cocoa farming spread into areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana where infrastructure to monitor child labor was weak and awareness of laws regulating it was low,” said Kareem Kysia, director of vulnerable populations research at NORC at the University of Chicago and a lead author of the report.
“Interventions to stem hazardous child labor in the cocoa sector should target new, emerging areas of production and focus on efforts to reduce exposure to the component parts of hazardous child labor,” he added.
According to Richard Scobey, president of the World Cocoa Foundation, the report shows that “there are today still too many children in cocoa farming doing work for which they are too young, or work that endangers them.”
The foundation represents companies handling about 80 percent of the world’s cocoa supply chain.
“Companies alone cannot solve the problem,” Scobey said as quoted by the Washington Post, noting also that global cocoa production has increased.