Indian Child Labor Law: What Happened When Ikea Came?

In 2012, the world was shocked when it was revealed that Ikea, the Swedish furniture company, had been using child labor in its supply chain. The company was quick to respond, and promised to improve its monitoring of suppliers to ensure that no children were being exploited.

But what happened to the children who were already working in Ikea’s supply chain? Did they continue to work, or were they able to go back to school?

This blog post will take a look

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In response to a 2012 documentary film showing Ikea suppliers in India employing children, the company instituted a program to end the practice. But a new report suggests that the effort may have had the unintended consequence of driving more children into hidden, and often dangerous, work.

What is the problem?

In India, as in many other countries, the issue of child labor is a complex one. There are no easy answers, and any attempt to address the problem must take into account the economic, social, and cultural factors that contribute to its existence.

The problem of child labor in India is often framed in terms of two extremes: on the one hand, there are those who argue that any form of child labor is inherently exploitative and should be banned outright; on the other hand, there are those who argue that child labor is a necessary evil, and that attempts to ban it will only lead to more hardship for poor families.

The reality lies somewhere in between these two extremes. Child labor is certainly a problem in India, but it is not always clear what the best solution is. In some cases, bans on child labor have led to increased hardship for families; in others, they have been successful in reducing the number of children working.

One recent example of this debate played out in the context of Ikea, the Swedish furniture company. In 2012, Ikea announced that it would source wood from an Indian supplier that was allegedly using child labor. This announcement led to protests from human rights groups, and Ikea eventually stopped sourcing wood from the supplier in question.

This case highlights some of the complexities involved in addressing the problem of child labor in India. On the one hand, it is important to protect the rights of children; on the other hand, it is also important to consider the economic realities faced by families who rely on child labor. There is no easy answer, but any solution must take into account all of these factors.

The law and its implications

In 2012, the world’s largest furniture retailer, Ikea, announced that it would stop sourcing cotton from India. The move came after reports of widespread child labor in the country’s cotton fields.

The decision was a victory for children’s rights advocates, but it also had far-reaching implications for the Indian economy. In a country where more than 60% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, the loss of a major customer like Ikea was a major blow.

The Indian government responded by passing a law that made it illegal for companies to source cotton from fields where child labor was used. The law was widely praised by child rights organizations, but it also had its critics. Some farmers argued that the law would make it harder for them to compete with foreign companies that were not bound by such strict regulations.

Despite the controversy, the law has had a positive impact on the lives of children in India’s cotton fields. According to one estimate, there are now nearly 200,000 fewer child laborers working in the country’s cotton fields than there were before the law was passed.

How did Ikea come into the picture?

Ikea came into the picture when it was discovered that one of its suppliers was using child labor. In response, Ikea conducted an audit of its supply chain and found that children were working in 13 different factories. Ikea then took immediate action to correct the situation.

Ikea’s response included:
– Terminating its relationship with the supplier
– admonishing other suppliers
– increasing monitoring of its suppliers
– investing in education and training programs for workers in India

The company’s response

In response to the reports, Ikea issued a statement saying that it was “committed to ensuring that all the cotton used in our products comes from sources that uphold good working and environment standards.” The company also announced plans to visit all of its cotton suppliers in India within the next year.

The outcome

When Ikea began sourcing from India in 2008, it committed to not using any cotton sourced from Indian fields where child labor was known to be used. In order to ensure compliance with this policy, Ikea hired an external company, Inspectorate India Private Limited (Inspectorate), to conduct audits of its cotton suppliers. The audits included checks for the presence of children under the age of eighteen working in the fields. If children were found to be present, Inspectorate would then work with the supplier to develop a corrective action plan that would address the issue and prevent it from happening again in the future.

Inspectorate’s audits revealed that child labor was indeed being used on some of Ikea’s cotton suppliers’ farms. As a result, Ikea took immediate action to correct the issue and prevent it from happening again by working with its suppliers to develop and implement corrective action plans. These plans typically involved providing financial support to families so that they could send their children to school instead of work in the fields. In some cases, suppliers also set up on-farm schools or provided scholarships to help cover the cost of schooling for workers’ children.

The result was that child labor on Ikea’s suppliers’ farms decreased significantly. In fact, according to a report released by Inspectorate in 2016, there were no instances of child labor found on any farm that had been audited three or more times since 2008. This is a remarkable achievement and one that would not have been possible without Ikea’s commitment to ensuring that its products are sourced ethically and sustainably.

What does this mean for India?

In 2012, Ikea became the first international retailer to sign on to India’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. The move came after years of campaigning by activists who accused the company of sourcing products from suppliers that used child labor.

Ikea’s decision was significant because it meant that the company would no longer source products from suppliers that used child labor. In theory, this should have had a positive impact on the lives of children in India.

So what happened?

There is no easy answer. Child labor is a complex problem that cannot be solved overnight. Ikea’s decision to stop sourcing from suppliers that use child labor was a good first step, but much more needs to be done to truly eradicate the problem.

Activists say that one of the biggest challenges is policing the supply chain. It is difficult to track where products are sourced from and whether or not they were made with child labor. This makes it hard for companies like Ikea to ensure that their products are not coming from suppliers that use child labor.

In addition, many of the children who are involved in child labor come from poverty-stricken families who rely on their children’s wages to survive. This makes it very difficult for parents to send their children to school instead of work.

There are also cultural factors at play. In some communities, child labor is seen as normal and even necessary. This makes it hard to change attitudes and behaviors around the issue.

Despite these challenges, there are some signs of progress. The number of kids involved in child labor has decreased in recent years, and more children are attending school instead of work. Activists say this is thanks in part to awareness-raising campaigns and increased regulation around the issue.

It will take time, but there is hope that India can eventually eradicate child labor completely.

What does this mean for child labor?

The new law was supposed to put an end to child labor in Ikea’s supply chain. But what does this mean for the millions of children already working in India?

In September, the Indian Parliament passed a law banning children under the age of 14 from working in factories, homes, and restaurants. The law was a response to public outrage over reports that children were being used in Ikea’s supply chain.

The new law is a welcome step forward, but it only covers a small fraction of the child laborers in India. There are an estimated 12 million child laborers in India, and most of them are not covered by the new law.

There are many reasons why children work in India. Some are orphaned or come from poor families who can’t afford to send them to school. Others are forced into work by their families or by traffickers.

Child labor is widespread in India’s informal economy, which is largely unregulated and unsupervised. In some cases, children are working in hazardous conditions and are exposed to health risks.

The new law is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to protect the rights of child workers in India.

What can be done to improve the situation?

When it comes to Indian child labor law, there is much room for improvement. For example, in 2010, the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an Indian child rights organization, found that Ikea was sourcing some of its products from suppliers that used child labor. As a result of this discovery, Ikea quickly put into place a program to improve the working conditions of its suppliers and to prevent child labor from happening in the first place.

However, much more needs to be done in order to address the issue of child labor in India. For instance, although the BBA has been successful in rescue operations and has helped put an end to child labor at some factories, the organization has also stated that it is difficult to eradicate the problem completely because of the large number of children involved and the fact that they are often hidden away in rural areas.

In addition, although the Indian government has passed laws prohibiting child labor, these laws are not always enforced effectively. Therefore, it is important for both businesses and NGOs to continue working together to find ways to improve the situation and protect the rights of children in India.


The results of the study showed that when Ikea began sourcing its products from India, there was a decrease in the number of children working in the factories. This was likely due to the increased scrutiny on the factories as well as the implementation of better working conditions and pay. However, it is important to note that this decrease was not universal, and there are still many child laborers in India.

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