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Report: China’s Apparel and Textile Interns Vulnerable to Forced Labor

The conditions under which China’s growing number of textile and apparel interns work are of increasing concern.

The China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) country office for China and Mongolia revealed the results of a joint Labor Protection of Interns in Chinese Textile and Apparel Enterprises Report at the CNTAC Annual Conference on Social Responsibility of Chinese Textile and Apparel Industry earlier this month.

Of the 290 interns participating in the survey, the vast majority consider their internship to be a useful learning experiencing, however, a significant portion are said to be vulnerable to forced labor without adequate legal protection. More than half of China’s textile and apparel interns worked in conditions, in one way or another, that do not meet the national minimum standards. Nearly 15 percent said they are carrying out “involuntary and coercive work” during their programs.

The ILO reported that in the last few years, manufacturing companies in China have been expanding their internship programs for vocational school and college students. When properly managed, the internships can be a fruitful learning experience facilitating the school-to-work transition. However, a lack of supervision and attention to the protection of interns’ labor rights may lead to situations of forced labor, the organization said.

During the conference, Tim De Meyer, director of the ILO country office for China and Mongolia stressed the need for framework for internships, including programs to be overseen by human resource and education professionals. Sun Ruizhe, vice president of CNTAC said the China’s labor administration and education department must also weigh in on the matter.

The survey was carried out in November and December 2013 in 10 textile and apparel companies in Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian and Zhejiang.