Source: At work Photo by Trevor Cole — National Geographic Your Shot

For small hands toiling away on tobacco farms, in artisanal mining, or textiles, searching for a job is a rudimentary pursuit to secure the next meal, or the response to a call to support family. Often times, a child’s safety hangs by a thread. Each increase in the demand for child labor triggers precarious work conditions and health risks, while baring the forgone opportunities of school-age children to an education. 168 million children are subjected to varying forms of child labor across the supply chain, from service work to manufacturing. Manual labor and indentured servitude are common; a modern day slavery of sorts that hovers under the radar. After all, even in quantum theory, reality does not exist until you observe it and measure it- a glaring fact for millions of voiceless children and youth.

A majority of these jobs occur in the informal sector, practices go unregulated and children find themselves confined to long working hours without decent wages. So why are the most vulnerable of us exploited? Well, labor is cheap and children are easily managed.

Since local jobs feed into global supply chains, corporations at all levels have the social responsibility to monitor labor standards and ensure transparency. At a minimum, consumers have a common duty to verify that the products they procure are ethical. This year’s World Day Against Child Labor is on the theme ‘child labor and supply chains’. It might start with small hands but ultimately the responsibility of child protection lies in ours.