March 7, 2024

Ethiopia & Child Labor - Fast Fashion Labor Exploitation

Ethiopia's weaving industry employs millions of children illegally, affecting their health, education, and way of life.

Fast Fashion Labor Exploitation - Ethiopia & Child Labor


The weaving and textile industry is rampant with child labor exploitation, particularly in Africa where 87 million children work. The long hours and poor working conditions contribute to significant health issues of these children and rob them of their education and freedom. This is especially apparent in Ethiopia, where 43% of children in Ethiopia are child laborers, often working in the garment industry as weavers for as little as $2.27 a week. These children are often forced to work due to family pressure, poverty, culture, or trafficking networks.


The absence of strict labor laws and enforcement allows the exploitative practices to continue. Many children work in hazardous conditions, exposed to harmful chemicals, and the physical demands of the job lead to long-term health problems. The children are often subject to physical abuse and harassment in the workplace, leading to further trauma and stress. The constant exposure to dust and fibers from the textiles can lead to respiratory issues, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis. These workers lack access to basic healthcare, which further exacerbates their health issues. The relentless work hours and lack of breaks compound their physical and mental exhaustion.


The substandard wages, as little as 100 birr ($2.28) a week, make it impossible for these children to escape the cycle of poverty. Their meager earnings are often used to support their families, leaving them with no opportunity to invest in their education or personal growth. The psychological impact of working from such a tender age is also significant, with many suffering from stress, anxiety and other mental health issues.


About 95% of Ethiopians start primary school but only 54% complete it and just 25% of 15- to 18-year-olds are in secondary school. School enrollment has stagnated in Ethiopia with boys being sent off to work and girls kept at home to help with domestic chores. Moreover, the lack of accessible and affordable education contributes to the issue. Many families can't afford schooling costs, and the distant location of schools from rural areas further discourages enrollment. Children engaged in labor miss out on critical learning opportunities, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and labor exploitation.

Government efforts to Stop Child Labor

Child labor is illegal in Ethiopia. Child trafficking is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but there is no defined penalty for hiring children under the age of 15 in the 2019 labor law. The government has established committees to reunite rescued children with their families, but due to poverty, hope for a better life and community expectations, most of these children end up migrating again.

The police force in Ethiopia is tasked with enforcing child labor laws and apprehending business owners who illegally employ children. However, it is believed by many in Ethiopia, that the police is also “part of the corrupt system of the trafficking chain,” a claim the police force rejects.

To address this issue, it is crucial to strengthen labor laws, increase awareness about the adverse effects of child labor, and implement effective strategies to eradicate poverty. Additionally, ensuring access to quality education can provide these children with an alternative to labor and a chance to build a better future.