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Approaches to Reducing the Use of Forced or Child Labor: Summary of a Workshop on Assessing Practice
Beryl Levinger also noted the importance of context. She noted that many talks at the workshop focused a lot of attention on this and she felt that one could distill a preliminary framework for contextualization. According to Dr. Levinger, “Contextualization in any criteria has to be closely linked to the environment in which the labor issues occur. This environment includes supply chain characteristics and the degree of government support for labor regulations and enforcement; government capacity to deal with labor issues; the size and scope of the sector; the composition of the sector; the role, engagement, and involvement of industry in the sector; and the role of families and communities in the sector. Without a fairly comprehensive understanding it is difficult to propose criteria that are contextually relevant.”
A second comment from Dr. Levinger had to do with the underlying assumptions. Whatever criteria are ultimately developed should reveal underlying assumptions about what makes business practices effective. “The assumptions that we may or may not be making have to do with whether we are talking about hired labor versus family labor, whether we are talking primarily about agriculture or manufacturing. If we are talking about agriculture it matters whether it is subsistence or commercial. Also, what assumptions do we make about the nature of the economic well-being of families in the sector, and finally status of the infrastructure, including schools, roads, health facilities, and education institutions?”
Dr. Levinger emphasized the importance of school enrollment and attendance rates for primary school education as a predictor and an important contextual element. Kevin Bales interjected here that measures of education were significant predictors of labor problems, but not quite as good as indicators of corruption or the rule of law. Dr. Levinger noted that these together might be useful. Dr. Bales agreed and added indicators of social unrest and conflict. He noted that including a measure for poverty created a good model for predicting labor issues. Dr. Levinger noted that such a model might be useful because it forms the situation in which business practices are condcuted.
Dan Viederman added that one theme which came out very strongly in the context of business practices in particular was integration. Business practices, he suggested, are probably better to the extent that the core business practice, the sourcing, the buy-in practice are integrated with the responsibility practices. Business practices are probably more effective as they address forced and child labor to the extent that the responsibility aspect of the business or orientation of the business is integrated with whatever else the business is doing on public policy terms, be it lobbying explicitly or decision making or the approach that the business takes to issues like corruption. He posited that there is an overlap in being able to identify, find, and fix forced and child labor if one is also identifying, finding, and fixing other core labor standards, freedom of association in particular. Integration as a criterion against which to measure business practices such that we can predict or assume their effectiveness is an important one to include.
Adam Greene was struck by the discussion of what he called “success factors,” those features that would determine whether a business practice was effective or not. These features may include stakeholder engagement and pulling in, coordinating with other groups, and mobilizing different actors in their different roles. A business practice may or may not be effective depending on whether it is one organization by itself or part of a coordinated effort in different actors.
Mr. Greene noted a related point was the link between child labor and forced