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China-Sourced Textiles, Yarn Flagged on DoL’s Forced-Labor List

The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) on Wednesday released a list of 17 goods it said were produced in China under conditions of forced labor in violation of international standards.

The list includes five new goods added in 2020–gloves, hair products, textiles, thread/yarn and tomato products–all of which are linked to state-sponsored forced labor by ethnic and Muslim minorities. DoL said the release of the list of goods made with forced labor was part of a broader U.S. government effort to address forced labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where more than 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities have been detained.

Estimates say at least 100,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in China, and possibly many more, may be working in conditions of forced labor and detained in Chinese Communist Party re-education camps.

“Forced labor and abusive child labor are dehumanizing, ruining lives and families,” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said. “Today’s list illustrates the disturbing role of China–the world’s second largest economy–in sponsoring these exploitative practices.”

Last week, the House passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which imposes various restrictions related to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region, including prohibiting certain imports from Xinjiang and imposing sanctions on those responsible for human-rights violations there. The bipartisan bill, which is pending in the Senate, calls for goods manufactured or produced in Xinjiang to be denied entry into the United States unless Customs and Border Protection determines they were not manufactured by convict labor, forced labor or indentured labor under penal sanctions and reports such a determination to Congress and to the public.

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DoL’s list is part of the release of two flagship reports and updates to two smartphone apps that shed light on key challenges and effective strategies for reducing child labor and forced labor around the world, DOL said.

The ninth edition of the “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor,” mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005, adds two new countries, Venezuela and Zimbabwe; one new area, Taiwan; and six new goods–gloves, rubber gloves, hair products, pome and stone fruits, sandstone and tomato products–that DoL has reason to believe are produced with child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards.

This edition also features the removal of cattle from Namibia from the list. In addition, a Federal Register Notice will be published with an initial determination proposing one addition, bricks from Cambodia, to the List of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor.

The 19th annual edition of the “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor” recognizes the efforts of 131 countries and territories to address child labor and applies stringent criteria to assessing the advancement of such efforts. This year, eight countries–Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Namibia, Paraguay and Peru–received the highest assessment of “Significant Advancement.” These countries made meaningful efforts during the reporting period in all relevant areas–laws and regulations, enforcement, coordination, policies and social programs–that may have included taking actions recommended in 2018.

More than 60 percent of the more than 2,000 suggested actions in this year’s report relate to the need to strengthen laws or improve the enforcement of such laws, highlighting the substantial gaps that remain worldwide, Do  L said.

This year’s edition of the “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor” report also marks a milestone of a sort, as Mexico is added to the list of countries covered for the first time. The addition of Mexico represents a deepening and strengthening of the U.S. trade relationship with Mexico, especially in conjunction with the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that came into force earlier this year. The Department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs plays a key role in the enforcement of this agreement as the lead U.S. government agency on international labor issues.

Recent International Labor Organization estimates reveal there are still more than 152 million child laborers–one in every 10 children–and 25 million forced laborers worldwide, DoL noted. By pinpointing specific industries where child labor and forced labor are occurring, these reports provide vital information to governments for targeting appropriate policy responses, donors for identifying the areas of greatest needs and businesses for directing resources to support due-diligence and risk-management systems.

To help businesses around the world do their part in ending child labor and forced labor, DoL is releasing a revamped version of the Comply Chain smartphone app that now includes up-to-date examples of good practices and is available in French and Spanish. This easy-to-use tool, available for download on both iOS and Android platforms, provides companies clear and detailed guidance on how to develop robust social compliance systems in their global supply chains. It assists them, including their suppliers, in identifying, rectifying and preventing labor abuses in the goods they produce.

The Department also released an updated version of the Sweat & Toil app, which contains information on goods produced by child labor or forced labor and the latest findings on governments’ efforts to address child labor.