Millions of boys and girls in the world work in the production of ingredients for beauty products, as warned by the NGO World Vision in its latest report ‘The high price of beauty: Child exploitation in world cosmetics’.
The report, published this Friday, is based on the findings of a study carried out by World Vision in March 2019, which was complemented by other desk studies in 2022 and 2023 and field visits carried out in Ghana and Uganda in August 2019 and April 2023.
The investigation identified ingredients in cosmetics that have “a high risk of child labor” in their sourcing and production, such as vanilla, which comes mostly from Madagascar, but also from Uganda, Indonesia and Mauritius, and can be found in body lotions, lip balms or makeup, or shea, gathered in West and East Africa, traditionally by women, used in eye makeup, bronzers, lipsticks or hair products.
Another of the detected ingredients is mica, 25% of which comes from Jharkhand and Bihar (India), where most of the mines are illegal and child labor abounds. More than 22,000 boys and girls, some as young as five, work with their families far from schools. Mica is used to add shimmer to highlighter and blush, eye shadows, lipsticks, and nail polishes.
“Cruelty-free products may not include animal testing, but they are likely to include ingredients obtained through child labor,” the NGO warns.
According to the data collected in the report, worldwide, almost 1 in 10 children, that is, 160 million minors between the ages of 5 and 17, work; and up to 26% of child labor is linked to global export markets.
In addition, it is estimated that 30% of the ingredients in cosmetics come from mining or agriculture and 112 million boys and girls in the world, 70% of all working children, work in agriculture.
Faced with this situation, World Vision calls on cosmetics consumers to lobby governments and beauty companies to improve traceability and supply chain legislation, reduce their reliance on middlemen and not “turn a blind eye ” before the reality of the origin of some of its ingredients.
“In illegal mines in India and Congo, children die in collapsed mine shafts as they dig for minerals that help us shine and slow aging. The convoluted nature of global supply chains means families don’t earn enough to keep their children in school and out of work. As the demand and profits of cosmetic companies increase, so does the risk of child labor,” warned World Vision’s Awareness and External Relations Manager, Daniela Buzducea.
World Vision’s report also reviews the policies of the seven largest beauty companies in 2018, and again in 2022, noting “advances in vendor policy documentation, training, hotline availability, and audits”. Although, in the same period there is also “a massive increase” of boys and girls working to collect ingredients used in cosmetics such as cocoa, copper, mica and vanilla.
“Improved supply chain legislation has helped improve business practices on paper in recent years, but we’re still waiting to see that translate into changes on the ground. Child labor levels are rising “, the NGO has warned.