Sunday 17th Dec 2017 - Logistics Manager

Child labour: the supply chain scandal that keeps repeating

There’s always a bit of excitement about opening up the packaging on a new mobile phone, but for many Samsung buyers that will now be tinged with the disconcerting realisation that child labour may well have been used in the construction of their new phones.

The revelation comes from China Labor Watch which last week reported that it had found child labour being used in Samsung’s supply chain – at a factory called Shinyang Electronics in Dongguan, China.  The company makes covers and other parts for cell phones.

China Labour Watch said its investigation of Shinyang revealed at least 15 sets of labour violations including child labour, unpaid overtime wages, excessive overtime, and a lack of social insurance, and a lack of pre-job safety training and protective equipment despite the use of harmful chemicals.

In a corporate blog, Samsung said: “Following the investigation, Samsung decided to temporarily suspend business with the factory in question as it found evidences of suspected child labour at the worksite. The decision was made in accordance with Samsung’s zero tolerance policy on child labour.”

Samsung has its own process for inspecting suppliers and has audited Shinyang three times since 2013. It says no cases of child labour were found during these audits. 

Three audits in 18 months – it sounds like a robust regime. The fact that it failed to detect this infraction highlights the difficulty of managing these issues in the supply chain. In this case, according to China Labor Watch, intermediaries were recruiting children as temporary labour for the factory. Children were being paid about two thirds of what an adult would earn.

Samsung is not the first major brand to be caught out like this – and it is unlikely to be the last.

Putting in place effective supply chain procedures is just one step. The next one is to work out how someone could circumvent those procedures and be ready for that.