Child labour in palm oil: How can children on plantations be kept safe?

Should the priority be to stop all child labour on palm oil plantations? Or to address the root causes of child labour?

Some 5 million children are affected by the palm oil industry in Indonesia, either as dependents of palm oil workers, or as workers themselves, data from Unicef, a children’s charity, has shown.

Children who work on plantations, doing a range of jobs including picking up loose fruit, are not only exposed to the hazards of plantation labour in the tropical heat—the impact extends beyond work. Childen living on or around plantations tend to live in remote areas, cut off from other communites. Some have never left the plantation. The palm oil trade has played a role in improving rural infrastructure, but plantation children often have limited access to basic services such as education and healthcare.

Child labour is a sensitive issue and, for some, is open to interpretation. When is a child working on a plantation exploitation, and when is it a child helping their parents out after school? And should the priority be to stop all child labour, or to address the root causes of child labour—rural poverty?

To discuss what can be done to keep children safe and families together on palm oil plantations, Eco-Business correspondent Zafirah Zein hosted a discussion with Kamini Visvananthan, human rights and social standards manager for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and Ines Kämpfer, executive director, Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR).

Tune in as we talk about:

  • The definition of child labour
  • What work are children doing on plantations?
  • Improving the welfare of women to help children
  • How are palm oil companies working to aid children’s rights?
  • How can projects to help children be scaled up?

Did you find this article useful? Help us keep our journalism free to read.

We have a team of journalists dedicated to providing independent, well-researched stories from around the region on the topics that matter to you. Consider supporting our brand of purposeful journalism with a donation and keep Eco-Business free for all to read. Thank you.

Most popular

More from Palm oil conversations

Smallholders in palm oil industry
Smallholders have taken much of the blame for this year's haze-causing forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan. How can they be motivated to switch to more sustainable, fire-free production methods?
oil palm plantation workers take a rest from work
As global attention focuses on forests and the plight of orangutans, the untold part of the palm oil story is people. What is the industry doing to protect palm oil workers' rights and those of the people who defend their land as the industry expands?
palm oil plantation with blue skies
A year after the leading sustainable palm oil certifying body forged an important strategic alliance in the world's most populous country, RSPO’s CEO Datuk Darrel Webber tells Eco-Business why he’s optimistic that China has the makings of a market leader in sustainable palm oil.
Palm oil smallholder farmer
Palm oil smallholders play an increasing role in deforestation and peat degradation. To make sustainable palm oil a reality, an industry is searching for ways to steer these farmers towards more responsible practices.
leaf background pattern

Transforming Innovation for Sustainability Join the Ecosystem →

Strategic Organisations

Reneum
Danfoss
Trucost
ESG Book
Olam
City Developments Ltd