The Rug Industry and Child Labour
UPDATE (30/11/2009): SINCE THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED 'RUGMARK' HAS BEEN RE-BRANDED AS 'GOODWEAVE'.
Rugs, as with many other goods manufactured in poorer countries, are often made by children against their will, in poor conditions. Here we look at the problem of child labour in the rug industry, what is being done to try and prevent it and how you (the consumer) can contribute just by making an informed decision when purchasing a rug.
Child labour is a very large problem in the rug industry, especially in the poorer parts of India, Pakistan and Nepal. Children are employed at a young age (sometimes as young as 4 years old) and are forced to work in very poor conditions. This can lead to health problems such as spinal and hand injuries and also respiratory effects. The right to do school work is also taken away from these children as they spend the majority of their childhood in labour, weaving rugs. 42 percent of children in the rug industry have never even attended one day of school. The maximum wage is the equivalent to 90 pence per day and children normally work at least eleven hours a day, seven days a week.
Often it is the case that these children are the victims of debt bondage. This means that they are forced to work of debt incurred by their parents. This debt is usually the equivalent of just a few pounds yet the children will work the majority of their lives to pay it off as they are charged for shelter, food and are held responsible for any imperfections in the carpets they weave.
One of the major initiatives which aims to stamp out child labour in the rug industry is called RugMark, a global, non-profit organization established in 1994. Its objectives include bringing an end to illegal child labour in the rug industry, ensuring these children get an education, and ensuring workers (including adults) have acceptable working conditions and are paid a fair wage.
When an exporter or importer of rugs wishes to join the RugMark initiative they must first agree to the following:
- None of their rugs will be produced by illegally employed children;
- Fair wages will be paid to all adult workers;
- Permit random inspections of their manufacturing premesis without prior notification;
- Inform RugMark of every sale of rugs carrying the RugMark label.
RugMark then charges all exporters and importers a licence fee to allow them to use the RugMark label. This money is then used to fund the RugMark programme. Each label contains a unique serial number allowing it to be traced back to exactly where it was manufactured.
RugMark has been very successful, almost 6 million rugs carrying the label have been exported worldwide. As well as this over 3000 children have been rescued from illegal labour, and a number of welfare & education initiatives have been established. However there is still a lot more to be done.
Modern Rugs is an official RugMark retail partner, you will find us listed on the RugMark website. We stock an extensive range of RugMark products and we are committed to helping RugMark suceed in its objectives.
So what can you do as the consumer. Simple; when purchasing a rug which has been made in India, Pakistan or Nepal make sure it has the RugMark label. Here at Modern Rugs you will find hundreds of RugMark label rugs for sale at our online shop including our kids rugs. If you would like to check that a rug on our website carries the RugMark label before purchasing feel free to call us on 01388 663738.