Essay on Child Labour in Cobalt Mining

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In many of the developing countries, economic conditions are bad and multinational corporations are known to hire underage children to work under harsh conditions for very low wages. These firms were charged with the unjust exploitation of workers and were accused of having a basic understanding of the global economy. It is important to respect these children and work with local labor laws. They should be hiring adults, who can support their families and be working in decent conditions with a fair wage. These companies claim they are sticking to the strict policies, but reports have shown that there are many cases involving child labor amongst major firms.

Although companies claim to care about human rights and ethics in the workplace, they are not actively working to improve these conditions or even eliminate the practice of child labor altogether. If a consumer is presented with the information that a product is made using child labor, it will factor into their decision-making process, but they will not go to great lengths to further investigate this initial concern. If information like this gets out, then companies may begin investigations into the matter, but what the public doesn’t know will not hurt the company. A report done in 2016 by Amnesty International has shown many cases of child labor and a connection to well-known technology corporations and automotive manufacturers. Reports like this can help companies in becoming more ethical. Through this study, it was uncovered that Apple was using child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to mine for the element cobalt. Cobalt is used in many tech devices to make lithium-ion batteries that help the devices function. Amnesty International reached to Apple to discuss this child labor accusation and received the response that the company is “unable to verify whether their products use cobalt from the DRC” (HBR, Zane, Irwin, and Reczek). Apple claimed that if they find a child worker in their supply chains, they send the underage worker home and keeps paying their wages. They even claimed to finance the child’s education and give them multiple employment opportunities. Even though Apple says they care about human rights, there are still reports of child labor. Apple was the first company to publish the cobalt mining companies and was helping Amnesty with the Huayou Cobalt Company to address the child labor issue and potentially help with eliminating the problem. Another multinational corporation that has been accused of child labor is the technology company, Microsoft. They are connected to the cobalt mining situation as well. In 2016, a news report done by Times to Recharge made a ranking on the industry giants and it showed that Microsoft had taken no action to correct this situation. They haven’t disclosed any details of how they attain their cobalt, which shows that Microsoft is still performing in an unethical way and is not in compliance with the basic international standards. Other companies such as Dell and HP have followed in Apple’s footsteps and started an investigation as well. They added high policies in regard to human rights in their cobalt supply chains. While some companies are trying to right the wrong, others are still hiding these unethical behaviors.

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As more companies are being exposed and making statements on the situations, many companies are looking to make internal investigations into their supply chains before they are outed of any wrongdoings. Although some companies are reminded of these unethical practices, it isn’t sufficient enough for them to take action and right the wrong. If a company publicly commits to making a change, they have the guilt of the public on their backs if they don’t agree to finish what they started. Companies need to take ethical action and quickly resolve the issues presented when they are first notified. Some companies have been taking important measures to correct the unethical behavior they are portraying. For example, in the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Intel announced that they would use only conflict-free material for the processors that they manufacture. In the following Consumer Electronics Shows, this issue has been a common topic for companies to better their ethical practices. According to the International Labor Organization, it is acceptable for children aged 13 to 15 to work in areas that don’t have a negative impact on their education or their health. This could farms, cotton fields, or even gardens, in which they could be helping their parents. Working in mines, at low depths and dangerous conditions is bad for anyone, regardless of age. But putting children in these situations if very unethical. Yes, multinational corporations make huge profits on this material, but this is at the expense of a child’s life.

Multinational corporations should be able to determine and implement change. Some companies do want to make a change to their supply chain, but they need long-term plans and goals to ensure the processes are being done ethically. Companies such as Apple that have been implicated by the Amnesty International research study have shown that they want to make a difference in the way they get their materials. They want to be a more ethically driven company. A solution that I think is viable is definitely bringing media attention to the issue. When the media is involved, they publicize the issues, putting the multinational corporation in the spotlight. If they are put on the spot, they will try to correct the wrongdoings that they have done. Sometimes, it is best to fix the problem presented internally, which is why the media should be the last option to correct the issue. A recommendation proposed is that companies need to first recognize the issue of having child workers and the unethical behavior that is presented. These corporations would likely want to avoid these issues and clear the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible. The best way to do this would be to make a statement of policy and have a strong determination to correct the problems. Internally, the company knows what is happening, but when the issue was brought up by a third party, they need to step up and quickly resolve it. This recommendation is better than mere ignorance of the situation occurring in their supply chains. Ignoring the situation presented at hand will more hurt the multinational corporation rather than help it.

Child labor is a major issue that is shown amongst many multinational corporations. Although some companies are listed as those who do this unethical practice, there could be many more that just haven’t been uncovered. The countries where this practice exists have poor economic conditions and these firms are taking advantage of it by making these children suffer. They are not looking out for these human beings, rather they are trying to make profits at the expense of the child’s life.  

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Essay on Child Labour in Cobalt Mining. (2024, April 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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