Child Labor and the Rug Industry

Child labor is a crime committed against one out of every seven children around the world.

Despite laws prohibiting it, child labor is rampant in South Asia's handmade rug industry. Children ages 4 to 14 are kidnapped or sold and forced to work as many as 18 hours a day to weave rugs destined for export markets such as the US and Europe. They are subject to malnutrition, impaired vision, deformities from sitting long hours in cramped loom sheds, respiratory diseases from inhaling wool fibers and wounds from using sharp tools. Those working as bonded laborers have no chance to earn their freedom and frequently earn little or no money. This exploitation is a form of modern slavery.

"Once trafficked into one form of labor, there is a strong likelihood that children may later be sold into another. For instance, a high percentage of girls from rural Nepal, recruited to work in carpet factories, are trafficked into the sex industry over the border in India."
―June 2004 United Nations study

While some people mistakenly think it is better when all members of a family work, child labor actually makes poverty worse. The more children are forced to work, the fewer opportunities there are for adults to earn a living. By driving down adult wages and depriving children of education, child labor ensures that poverty will be passed down from generation to generation.  The International Labour Organization (ILO) states, “Born to parents who themselves were uneducated child workers, many child workers are forced to continue a tradition that leaves them chained to a life of poverty” (ILO, United States Policies to Address Child Labor Globally, 2010).

Not only does child labor lead to a perpetual cycle of poverty for a family, it also depresses the economy. A study by the ILO found that it would cost $760 billion to end child labor, but the benefits to the economy would be more than six times that—an estimated $5.1 trillion in economies where child laborers are found.

By building awareness about the widespread use of child labor in the rug industry and creating an effective certification system for child-labor-free rugs, GoodWeave is ending child labor one rug at a time. Since 1995, 11 million child-labor-free carpets bearing the GoodWeave label have been sold worldwide, and the number of "carpet kids" has dropped from 1 million to 250,000. Yet GoodWeave needs your help to eradicate child exploitation in the rug industry once and for all.

Get Involved »

Children's Stories

At the age of five, Manju was already working on the rug looms. While she has since been found and freed from carpet work, some 250,000 children throughout South Asia still toil in obscurity. Through GoodWeave nearly 3,600 kids like Manju have been rescued, rehabilitated and educated, and thousands more deterred from entering the workforce.

More Stories »

About the Organization

GoodWeave works to end child labor in the carpet industry by certifying child-labor-free rugs and by providing education and opportunities to rescued and at-risk children. Learn More »