The same folks who brought us the €2 T-shirt vending machine are back with a new hidden-camera project that exposes the double standards endemic to the fashion industry, specifically, the issue of children in the workforce. In The Child Labor Experiment, Fashion Revolution Germany asked five children, aged 10 to 12, to seek out employment at various fashion companies, both over the phone and in stores in and around Berlin. As the video reveals, the grownups immediately balk. “You’re way too young,” one representative replies. “That would be child labor,” remarks another. “Children should play, not work,” says a third. Even promises that the children would work for very little money do nothing to sway the adults.
Despite the industry’s protestations, about 168 million children are engaged in child labor around the world, according to the International Labour Organization. About 85 million, or more than half that number, are responsible for hazardous work.
Many of these children can be found in the fashion supply chain, where they’re tasked with making textiles and garments for consumers in the United States, Europe, and beyond.
“There is no supervision or social control mechanisms, no unions that can help them to bargain for better working conditions,” she said. “These are very low-skilled workers without a voice, so they are easy targets.”
Still, there’s power in what we choose to buy—or not buy, as the case may be.
Transparency, notes Annett Borg, country coordinator at Fashion Revolution Germany, is the industry’s only hope for rehabilitation.
“With the Child Labour Experiment, we hope to raise attention and make people realize, that a fair share of the power to stop child labor lies with the consumer,” Borg said in a statement. “It’s not about which clothes to buy or not to buy but to be curious and find out about #WhoMadeMyClothes. Transparency is the first step to transform this industry.”