Child labour and cotton

“The Products of Slavery flash map shows that there are 14 countries where cotton is produced using child labour. These are Argentina, Azerbaijan, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Paraguay, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Child workers in the cottonseed industry are often in a state of debt bondage and work at least nine hours a day. Pesticides used during production cause health problems for the children and they report experiencing headaches, convulsions and respiratory problems. The long-term effects of exposure to toxic chemicals have not been measured.

In Uzbekistan, one of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, as many as two million children are forced to leave school and pick cotton in order to meet government-imposed cotton production quotas. Up to one third of the country’s population is conscripted each fall to labor on cotton farms. For decades, it has used the forced labor of its schoolchildren starting in the early primary grades, college and university students, and civil servants, to harvest that cotton by hand.While the cotton industry is very profitable for a few large landowners and political elites, the vast majority of cotton farmers live in dire poverty. Independent union representation is almost nonexistent for workers.”

International Labor Rights Forum

According to a report released by ILRF in June 2009, Uzbekistan is the world’s sixth largest producer of cotton, and the third largest exporter. Around 70 per cent of this cotton is sold to Bangladesh and China, where it is turned into fabric to be used in clothes, sheets and other cotton products to be sold into countries such as Australia.


The human rights concerns surrounding Uzbek cotton production has lead to a call for a boycott of Uzbek cotton from Uzbek activists.

  • See more about the Stop Child Labour Cotton Campaign at
  • Watch ‘White Gold – the true cost of cotton’ (video)
  • See the media release for the Uniting Church in Australia campaign.
  • See 2012 Cotton Harvest report by Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.
    Cotton Campaign.
  • See companies who have signed the Pledge against using products that have cotton from Uzbekistan.
  • Take action to tell major apparel brands to prohibit the use of cotton from Uzbekistan.
  • Send a postcard to the CEO of Australian Clothing and Footware Merchant, Rivers via the Stop the traffic campaign
  • Send an email to tell H&M not to profit from modern day slavery. H&M are a Swedish FAST-fashion megastore, opening stores in Melbourne and Sydney in late 2013.
  • More reports, videos, actions at the Cotton-Campaign.

What would happen if we interviewed children on child labour? – Undress Runways video