Child Labour in Chocolate Industry


  • IC- Ivory Coast
  • U.S.A – United States of America
  • UK – United Kingdom
  • Co-op – a business organisations
  • ILO- International Labour Organisation
  • GDP- Gross Domestic Product
  • UNICEF- United Nation’s Children’s Fund


Child labour is being referred to all employment activities of children. Child labour is being used for cultivating cocoa in West Africa. Inhuman treatment of child labour in West Africa have been brought to the world’s attention by social welfare organisations and now they are fighting against this damning attitude being perused by famous chocolate producers around the world. Child labour is not only creating mixed social, political issues but also it cast doubt on big chocolate manufacturing companies’ social responsibility and ethical attitude. This research report demonstrates the background of the issue in detail.

Child Labour and Slavery

Almost for all consumers, chocolates taste sweet and enjoyable but definitely not for African children as it may taste sour to them..Do you know when you chew a chocolate and when it brings delicious taste in your mouth that it has emanated from the hard work of tens of hundreds of West African poor children who are compelled to work as child labour for long odd hours, employing hazardous tools with un-humanitarian treatment? According to US Department of State, about 109,000 poor young children have been forced to work in cocoa farms under the worst environment and about 10,000 of them are victims of enslavement or human trafficking. The worst side of the story is that these children are compelled to work for elongated, exhausting hours, employing hazardous tools and prone to exposure to hazardous pesticides as they have to travel long distances in the scorching heat.

According to recent study about 186 million children in the age of 5 to 14 are forced to perform full-time labour activity. Out of this, about 111 million child labour are forced to perform hazardous labour. Further, these child labours will receive any education at all and when they grow as an adult, they are forced to be employed as a low-paid and low skill labour. Due to globalisation process, Western countries are importing from developing countries cheap products produced by child labour.

NBC television net work brought to the attention of American public how Wal-Mart, the America’s largest super market was purchasing lion’s share of its readymade clothes from Bangladesh exporters who employed child labour. Fearing that U.S.A will curtail its exports from Bangladesh, about 50,000 children were fired from their work overnight. To everybody dismay , none of these children returned to school but rather compelled to engage in mean jobs like child prostitution , brick-chipping ,selling flowers on the street etc. (Elliott &Freeman 112). Likewise, if 15000 child labour is prohibited to work in Cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, none of them will be returning to schools. As what had happened in Bangladesh, IC child labour will be forced to engage in mean jobs like child prostitution, brick-chipping, selling flowers on the street etc if they are denied to work in Cocoa farms. Instead, IC government and chocolate industry as a measure of enhancing the ethical standard should ensure that they receive a fair wage, a good working atmosphere, healthy food and good education

Fallon and Tzannatos demonstrate that the existence of child labour is negatively associated with the increase in per capita GDP. Further, even parents under extreme poverty will hesitate to send their children to earn if they can desist it.

Worst Working atmosphere in Chocolate farms in IC

According to Child Labor Coalition, there are about 600,100 Cocoa farms in IC. According to Save the Children, Canada about 15001 children are forced to work in these farms. (Chanthavong 2002). These children are working in miserable atmosphere and inhuman living scenarios. They are forced to work more than 16 hours a day in the scorching sunlight, they are also denied adequate healthy food to eat. They are often asked to eat corn paste as their only meal a day. The children are forced to work from 5 am in the early morning up to 9 pm in the night. Further, children are asked to carry the cocoa bags which are taller than their own height on their head for long distance. Unable to tolerate the weight of the Cocoa bag, children are used to fall down and get injured and no medical treatments are given. At this juncture, the farmer would beat the children to lift the bag and carry it on their head. Many boys are having scars all over the body due to stroke received from the bike chains and tree branches. After toiling more than 18 hours in the Cocoa field, their ordeal will not come to a standstill. In the night also, their ordeal continues. About 20 or more children are locked up in small room that is measuring about 24 by 20 feet. All the boys will sleep on wooden plank. The room contained only a small hole to allow some fresh air. They have to urinate in a small can. No children will dare to escape after they have seen what happened to their colleague who had been severely beaten after they have been caught. If they able to escape, they will be caught again as the farm owners bribed the police authorities to secure them back. Most of the children have scars and were affected by psychologically and physically due to inhuman treatment they received from Cocoa farm owners.

Child Labour and Slavery

As early in October 2000, famous chocolate manufacturing companies like Mars, Nestle and Cadbury initiated investigation into the complaints that their raw materials are sullied by slavery. These chocolate manufacturing companies were compelled to act following pressure exerted due to aftermath of an imprecating television documentary which exposed that in the IC , about 90% of Cocoa farms use slave child workforce.

ILO convention 182 clearly distinguishes the worst form of child labour like compulsory or slave labour, labour that injures safety, health and morals of the children, debt bondage, use of children in armed conflict, child prostitution. ILO convention 182 thus won broad endorsement across the globe.

The UK chocolate market is predominated by Mars, Nestle and Cadbury and these companies were in soup when child slavery was exposed. To preserve their market share in the industry, these companies refused to accept that there existed child labour in the production of Cocoa and rejected the claim made by the television documentary producer as an act of exaggeration. If the children are stripped off their jobs and if the reasons why they work remain unattended, they may be compelled to work in more dangerous, worst form and low –paid jobs.

Some parents who send their children through a middle man to IC who is often a trusted community leader or relative and they make certain that such children receive not only adequate wages and also an education.

The tragedy is that the majority of the children who are kidnapped by traffickers are publicly sold in Abidjan markets in IC. Those children who have been sold by traffickers will never receive any pay at all for their work, no education is provided, were put behind locked up rooms during night mainly to forbid escape. Further, these child workers are asked to perform the jobs at Cocoa farms which have to be performed by grown up adults. It is to be observed that out of 65% of the child labour engaged in Cocoa farms are boys.

In 2001, child rights organisations have brought this precarious situation to the world’s attention through international media. Further, child right organisations have requested the world’s consumers to boycott the Cocoas from IC until this child labour brutality comes to an end. In 2002, Ivory Coast government, representatives of Chocolate industry and human right groups had finally consented to forbid offensive child labour exercises in Cocoa farms in IC.

Following the above newspaper reports, British chocolate manufacturing companies concurred that they could not promise their cocoa products were exempt from child slavery in Africa.

In 2001, the government authorities of Benin, a West African state informed that a ship construed to be one at the centre of an international hunt for a cargo of suspected child slaves, was considered to be nearing fast to the Benin. The said ship was said to be carrying about 250 children trusted to have been “purchased” form their parents and re-sold into slavery by traffickers. It is feared that the children might likely to be thrown out of the ship in some place along the coast of West Africa as it was facing severe shortage of water and food.

Ivory Coast History

Ivory Coast is in West Africa and is on the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean. In the year 2005, its estimated population was around 17,298,000 and it has an area of 322,463 square kilometres. It is bordered by Burkina Faso and Mali on the North, Guinea and Liberia on the West and Ghana on the east.

Map of Africa

Ivory Coast witnessed a high economic growth rate from its independence from France through 1979. In 1980’s, Ivory Coast witnessed economic recession. With the help of International Monetary Fund sponsored programs, exports and economic productivity witnessed substantial growth. However, due to political and ethnical unrest in the late 1990s, its economy witnessed major decline.

Ivory Coast predominant profession is agriculture despite of the fact that it had rapid industrialisation since 1960s. Besides Cocoa, Ivory Coast is the largest exporter of coffee, cotton, pineapples, bananas and palm-kernel oil also. Ivory Coast also tops the export of diamonds and it is famously known as “Blood Diamonds” as the proceeds of the sale of diamonds are utilised to purchase arms to be used in their internal conflict. In 2005, UN Security Council banned import of diamonds from Ivory Coast. Previous empirical research reveals that the economic downturn in Ivory Coast in the 1980’s paved an increase in child labour. (The Columbia Encyclopaedia).

Cocoa is cultivated by more than five million family farms every year in countries like Ivory Coast, Vietnam, Cameroon and Brazil which overall cultivates about three million tons of cocoa beans every year. Cocoa was introduced as cash crop in 1912 in Ivory Coast and since then, Ivory Coast is producing about 40% of the total global needs of Cocoa which is the raw ingredient for the manufacture of chocolates. (Hamilton 61). Further, it supplies about 43% of U.S needs of Cocoa. It earns about US$ 1.4 billion by exporting Cocoa. An adult worker is just receiving a cash wage of US $ 165 per annum for working in a Cocoa farm. Young, teen-aged children mainly from neighbouring poor nations like Mali, Burkina Faso and from other West African countries come to Ivory Coast (IC) in searching for a livelihood. The sad story is that the majority of these poor children from neighbouring West African nations are either smuggled or kidnapped into IC by traffickers since they may be orphans or deserted from their parents or their parents might have died due to AIDS.

Cocoa Production Process & Chocolate Producers

Cocoa Production process involves five processes. They are:

From Cocoa bean to nib: Raw Cocoa beans will be processed first into Cocoa mass. Cocoa beans will be first fermented and then dried. Then Cocoa husk will be removed and nib or kernel will be given heat treatment and then roasted.

From nib to butter: The next stage is to transform the nib to butter. Cocoa mass is boiled and fat is removed and the butter is extracted. Thus, Cocoa butter is sent to market either in liquid form or in solid form.

From mass to Power: From Cocoa cakes, powder is manufactured which contains taste, fragrance and colour of the cocoa. If powder is mixed with chocolate, then it becomes milk chocolate.

From butter or powder to Chocolate: Adding sugar, milk, with Cocoa butter and by conching, chocolate is finally manufactured. Tempering process allows the chocolate to get cooled and then it is pressed into desired shapes.

Specialisation: Manufacturing of chocolates are now more sophisticated and has achieved specialisation. New process has been introduced to manufacture chocolates by the Dutch. Dutch chocolates due to their specialisation have achieved the number one status in chocolate nowadays.

Mars is a UK based international company with family values as its products are consumed in more than 100 nations all around the world. Mars is a leader in Cocoa procurement as it knows it is the main raw material for its products. It follows a sustainability policy towards its Cocoa procurement. Mars is owned by a single family. M&M is another business wing from Mars family.

Mars which is having more than one million cocoa farms in IC refused to acknowledge that its products are free from slave workforce as it would be an arduous task to supervise that is happening in a country which is five times larger than U.K. Nestle also refused to guarantee that their cocoa products are free from exploitation of child workforce in IC.

Nestle was established in 1868. Its main business is dairy milk. In 1937, it launched its famous brand namely white chocolate Milky Bar. Nestle accepted that there are issues with the child-labour and extended its cooperation to find a solution to the issue. Nestle strongly has condemned about the existence of worst form of child labour in Cocoa farms and assumes an active part to eradicate this issue.

Hershey Company is having a charity namely Milton Hershey School to provide home for disowned and orphan children. Hershey primary income includes sales from chocolate bars. Hershey is encouraging child labour indirectly and this is really contrasting with its main aim of nourishing orphan children. (Bales 190).

In reaction to strong public ire in U.K, the Co-op , one of the largest supermarket chains in U.K declared in November 2002 that it planned to change its whole own-brand to Fairtrade chocolates in all of its 2,400 stores , thereby introducing justly merchandised cocoa decisively in to the mainstream of U.K market.

Thus, Co-op move has sent a strong signal to retailers and manufacturers of chocolate that commercial viability is possible for ethically produced cocoa. These moves will be definitely going to save adults and children in West Africa from forced bonded labour in this province and assures producers a fair price for the farm products. Co-op is also urging Mars, Cadburys and Nestle that at least one product in their range bear the Fairtrade label. ( Bass 158).

Co-op action is definitely a vital move and consumers will be assured that the chocolate they consume is free from forced child labour by purchasing the product that carry Fairtrade label. (McEwen 259).

The Cocoa Protocol

Cocoa was first cultivated in Amazon basin. Cocoa tree grow where there is warmth and rainfall available constantly and it is largely being cultivated in the tropical regions situated within fifteen to twenty degrees from the equator. Cocoa is extensively cultivated in Central America, South America, Asia and mostly from Africa. Cocoa being a cash crop, Cocoa farming usually helps countries like Ivory Coast to assist to sustain its economy.

Cocoa Protocol also known as the “Harkin-Engel Protocol” is an agreement between Cocoa farm owners, welfare organisations and Chocolate industries in U.S.A and Europe to eradicate child slavery in the Cocoa farms. It has set four year time-table at all segments and levels of the Cocoa industry to respect the principles established by the International Labour Organisations (ILO) Convention 182 against “worst forms” of child labour.

The Cocoa Protocol was a landmark agreement as this being the first ever kind of agreement to be made between the entire chocolate industry and anti-child labour and anti-slavery movement in past two centuries. Further, Protocol has established the “International Cocoa Initiative “to oversee the certification process and to eradicate the child-slavery in Cocoa farms.

Eliot Engel, a US congress representative introduced a bill in 2001 urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to introduce a label for chocolate products that would signal that child labour was not employed in the cultivating and producing of cocoa. Later, joined by his friend Senator Tom Harkin, Engel strived hard that those chocolates lovers in U.S.A were not accomplice in a system of child labour. In 2001, Harkin-Engel Protocol was endorsed by the chocolate industry and the industry recognised the immediate necessity to distinguish and eliminate child labour in infringement of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182.

International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) was formed to supervise and prolong efforts to abolish the worst guise of child labour and creation of realistic, voluntary, reciprocally acceptable, industry-wide criteria and public certification by 2005. ICI has also created a community action replica for eradicating unacceptable kinds of child labour at every village level and is assisting to revitalising the victims of trafficking.

The Harkin –Engel Protocol was considered to be an historic action due to the following two reasons. All the stakeholders in the chocolate supply chain like traders, plantation owners and chocolate manufacturers assumed responsibility for redressing, supervising and cooperating with governments to forbid child labour in the cocoa industry around the globe. Thus, it demonstrated that how U.S government could employ their “bully pulpit” to make sure that children were not compelled to work in cocoa plantations under bad environment.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol offers an illustration of U.S. activism at the crossroad of trade and human rights. U.S.A often employs its trade policies both incentives and disincentives to encourage specific human rights in targeted foreign nations. However, U.S government have a difficult time in ensuring that some of its policies like agricultural subsidies for cotton and sugar do not sabotage not only human rights in abroad but in home also.

Thus, in the case of chocolate child labour, US congress has used its own human rights schedule, which initiated action on human rights issues even without involvement of the executive. (Susan, Aaronson & Zimmerman 153).

Ivory Coast is lacking behind the target set by ICI for the cocoa farming pilot certification due to internal armed conflict. In 2008, ICI announced that it had completed about half of the certification process in each nation. (UNO 19).

There are no easy solutions to address the child labour issues in cocoa farming and chocolate manufacturing companies may enter into a probable minefield when extending corporate social obligations to the issue. Thus, despite of various efforts by international community, the child labour is exploited in cocoa farming even today and this demonstrates the complexity of the child labour issue and the inappropriate action to eradicate child labour whether by the state, the civil society or by the private sector, can be probably injurious to children.

Further, the Cocoa Protocol of 2001 was one of the sincere efforts to resolve this ethical issue. Though US tried to pass this legislation and it was failed mainly due to lobbying and power exerted by the famous chocolates brands like Kraft, Mars and Hershey in the US. Following the footprints of US, there have been adequate steps to introduce food labelling in Europe also and this has been strongly opposed by Cadbury, Nestle and Mars in Europe. With the help of consumer pressure groups and NGO’s, Fairtrade certification was successfully introduced in Europe. However there are attempts by chocolate manufacturers to circumvent this provision by Cadbury liberating ranks with the it’s pledge to Fairtrade certification for the its Dairy Milk brand that it is going to procure cocoa beans not from Ivory Coast but from Ghana.

Now, most of the chocolate bars sold in UK contain Fairtrade label certifying the consumer that it is produced and sourced in tune with the strict fair trade conditions For instance, Day Chocolate Company of U.K now offers its Dubble and Divine chocolate brands with Fairtrade certificate. (Crane et al 391).

Data and Findings

According to the study made by the International Institute for “Tropical Agriculture” in 2002 about 284,000 children were employed in dangerous atmosphere in Cocoa farms in West Africa. According to recent study about 186 million children in the age of 5 to 14 are forced to perform full-time labour activity. Out of this, about 111 million child labour are forced to perform hazardous labour. Fallon and Tzannatos demonstrate that the existence of child labour is negatively associated with the increase in per capita GDP. Further, even parents under extreme poverty will hesitate to send their children to earn if they can desist it.

In U.K, Chocolate manufacturers are not directly purchasing the cocoa products directly from the farm owners. The supply chain for cocoa product is more elongated than the case of Brazil’s tobacco. Ivory Coast (IC) farmers will sell their raw cocoa to local brokers or intermediaries. Then, national intermediaries in IC will purchase the same from local intermediaries. Then, commodity brokers will purchase the same from national intermediaries. Finally, the chocolate manufacturers buy from commodity brokers. Thus, four stages are there between chocolate manufacturers and cocoa farm producers. Initially, chocolate manufacturers refused to accept that there is any involvement of any child labour in their chocolate and due to pressure exerted by NGO and government, they latter concurred to collaborate in an effort to supervise and investigate the issue. (Jones & Pollitt 2002 p.109).


Today, there are more than 200 million child labourers in the world and this evil is existing for more than two centuries. This is an everlasting issue and solution cannot be found overnight. Child labour in what ever form is harmful as it obstructs children’s psychological, physical social and emotional development.

Western countries when they grant financial or technical aid to developing countries they should make it a point that child labour in whatsoever form should be discouraged.They should respect human rights as detailed in the 1948 UN’s Universal declaration. Western countries should offer some kind of incentives to those countries that provide rehabilitation packages to desist from child labour activities.

When children have to work compulsorily to support their family, they should at least be offered with enough safeguards and rights, including right to education and association.

Child labourers’ opinions should be taken when policies are drafted to address this issue.

If child labour other than worst form is prohibited then it may hurt these children rather than assisting them. Advantages derived by Collaborative intervention is being demonstrated by the past empirical studies prove that the most effective policy is one that struggle to end poverty and to augment access to education.

Mexico offers financial incentives to parents who send their children to schools through a program called “Oppurtunidades”. Ivory Coast should follow this model to abolish child labour.

Free education with noon meal scheme can be organised at Ivory Coast to abolish child labour and to motivate parents to send their children to schools rather than to Cocoa farms.

Both UNICEF and ILO are supportive of granting education subsidies to the nations where there exist other forms of child labour. Chocolate manufacturing companies should create a welfare fund by allocating 5% of their purchase cost or profits for providing congenial climate of work in Cocoa farms and good education to those children who are engaged in Cocoa farms to support their family.

Chocolate manufacturing companies should practice ethical approach to child labour issue and see that the adults are paid a decent compensation and conditions of employment. Chocolate manufacturing companies that engaged in translational business have an ethical duty to conform to international labour standards as detailed in ILO Conventions especially 138 on the minimum age for employment. Further, these companies should ensure that children should be removed from worst Forms of Child Labour as explained in 182 of ILO Convention. It is to be remembered that if they place moratorium on child labour, then living conditions of these orphan children will still become worse. Hence, with the certification of standards, ICL should see that these children get proper treatment, education and savings for their future. They should see that proper working conditions exist for child labourers in cocoa farms and they are provided with quality education also. Child labour should be phased out from cocoa plantations and this should be done by the joint initiatives of trade unions, commodity operators, NGO’s, governments and chocolate manufacturing companies. Recalcitrant chocolate manufacturing companies should be forced to comply with anti –child labour practices by enacting appropriate laws. Trade union should ensure that interest of the broader labour force are comprised through collective bargaining and offers a way of supervising labour practices. NGOs can offer a strong child –cantered viewpoint, from specialist knowledge about the broader economic and social context of child labour and should formulate to develop effective means of helping those children who are exploited in cocoa farms. (Jones & Pollitt 110).

Further, ILO Convention No 182 stipulates that there should be distinction between worst form of child labour and other kind of Child labour. Worst form of child labour includes work which hinders the mental, psychological, physical, social and mental developments of children, working in dangerous or unhealthy environments and isolation of children from the normal protection offered by society.

Works Cited

Bales, Kevin. Ending Slavery. How we free today’s slaves. California: University of California, 2007.

Bass, Loretta Elizabeth. Child Labor in Sub-Saharan Africa. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004.

Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “Chocolate and Slavery: Child labour in Ivory Coast.” 2002. Web.

Crane A. and Matten, D. Business Ethics: Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalisation, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Elliott Kimberley Ann &Freeman Richard Barry. Can Labour standards improve under Globalisation? Washington: Peterson Institute, 2003

Hamilton Janice. Ivory Coast in Pictures. Breckenridge: Twenty-First Century Books, 2004.

Jones Ian & Pollitt Michael G. Understanding how issues in business and ethics develop.Hamshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Lagasse, Paul.”Cote d’Ivoire. “. In The Columbia Encyclopaedia 6th ed, 2007.

McEwan, Cheryl. Post colonialism and Development. London: Taylor & Francis, 2009.

Susan, Aaronson & Zimmerman Jamie M. Trade Imbalances. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

United Nations Organisation. Human Rights Translated: A Business Reference Guide. New York: United Nations Publications, 2009.

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