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|Index||Score||Global Average||Due Diligence Response|
To what extent does the state protect children's rights in the workplace?
To what extent does the state regulate marketing and advertising, and ensure children are not harmed through product use?
Community and Environment Index
To what extent does the state encourage the responsible extraction and use of natural resources, limit damage to the environment, and protect children from displacement?
The following analysis provides a brief analysis of the data behind the Children’s Rights and Business Atlas and is meant to guide businesses in integrating child rights considerations into human rights due diligence. To fully understand impacts on children’s rights, we encourage all companies to consult relevant industry analysis, and to take steps to align policies, procedures and practices to the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) and Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBPs).
Credit: © UNICEF/UN013053/Sokhin
Children in Australia are affected by the operations and activities of business. They are consumers of goods, services and technology, targets of marketing and advertising, employees working in shops, restaurants and offices, and community members affected by business operations both near and far. Children are also impacted by the experiences of parents and caregivers in Australian workplaces.
Based on the findings of the three indices making up the Children’s Rights and Business Atlas, businesses should exercise basic to moderate due diligence when operating in or sourcing from Australia.
According to the Children’s Rights in the Workplace Index, companies operating in or sourcing from, Australia should exercise moderate due diligence. Australia’s score of 2.3 out of 10 in the Index is primarily due to the lack of available data on the extent and nature of child labour in the country, as well as some gaps in protections for working parents and young people. To respect and support children’s rights in the workplace, businesses should:
Provide decent work for parents and caregivers
Australia’s legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex, pregnancy, breastfeeding and family responsibilities in employment. The law also provides for 18 weeks (approx. 4.5 months) of paid parental leave for the primary carer (often birth mothers). Parental leave is paid at the national minimum wage, which is revised each year by the Fair Work Commission based on economic factors and the cost of living. The ILO Convention No. 183 on Maternity Protections specifies that maternity benefits should be set at two-thirds of basic salary, and at a level that ensures women can maintain themselves and their children at a suitable standard of living; however, Australia has not yet ratified this convention. Many workplaces also provide additional employer-funded parental leave in certain circumstances, but this is not required by law.
An adequate period of maternity leave is crucial to ensuring that working mothers can recover from childbirth and parents can adequately care for new born infants. Without an adequate length of maternity leave paid at a level that supports a good standard of living, working parents – and particularly mothers – may be motivated to return to work before they and their infants are ready. The duration of paid parental leave in Australia, while aligned with ILO recommendations the ILO Maternity Protection Recommendation No. 191, may interfere with exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (26 weeks) as recommended by UNICEF and WHO guidelines. Exclusive breastfeeding helps children to survive and supports healthy development. However, in Australia, only 15% of infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months, which is much lower than the global average of 43%.
To mitigate the risk that inadequate parental leave and pay will have an adverse impact on workers’ children, and to enable working parents to maintain an adequate standard of living for their children, companies should consider providing working parents with additional, employer-funded parental leave. Companies can also provide breastfeeding support to mothers returning to work (i.e., special lactation rooms and facilities for expressing and storing breastmilk).
Ensure decent work for young workers
In Australia, businesses may face challenges with regard to fair payment and living wages for young workers. The Fair Work Act 2009 establishes a system whereby Australia’s minimum wages are set by the Fair Wage Commission and revised annually based on economic factors, cost of living and tripartite negotiations. However, the law allows the Commission to provide an exemption for ‘junior employees’ under the age of 21. This means that workers under 21 are entitled to a lower minimum wage rate set as a percentage of the general rate, determined solely on the basis of their age. Although this law is designed to encourage employers to give employment opportunities to young people, the provision has been criticised as unfair and discriminatory to young workers. In particular, the Australian Human Rights Commission has flagged this system as unjustifiably discriminatory, and has urged the government to replace junior rates with rates based on the skills and responsibilities required by the job.
To ensure respect and support for young workers, businesses can ensure that wage rates paid to young workers are in compliance with national laws, but also set on the basis of skills and experience rather than age alone. To further support young workers, companies can ensure that they are provided with training and apprenticeship opportunities.
Safeguard children in business facilities
Protecting young people from being harmed by business facilities and activities is also an important component of respect and support for children’s rights. The protection and safeguarding of children has also been identified as a priority area by the Australian government. In 2013, the state established a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in response to widespread reports of cases where child protection agencies and institutions fail to protect children from sexual abuse. The state has further endorsed a National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations to drive implementation of a child safe culture across all organisations. Businesses can promote a child safe culture by integrating the Principles for Child Safe Organisations into their due diligence procedures.
According to the Children’s Rights in the Marketplace Index, companies operating in or sourcing from Australia should exercise moderate due diligence. Australia’s score of 2.9 out of 10 on the Index is primarily due to growing concerns around the protection and safety of children online, and growing rates of child obesity, linked to unhealthy diets. To respect and support children’s rights in the marketplace, businesses should:
Ensure that products and services are safe
Australia has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. National laws prohibit the production, sale and consumption of child pornography, including online child sexual abuse material. The government recently passed the Criminal Code Amendment (Protecting Minors Online) Act 2017to target online predators preparing or planning to cause harm, procure or engage in sexual activity. The new law also provides enforcement agencies with the power to intervene earlier to prevent predatory acts against children.
With the safety of children online - including online sexual exploitation, cyberbullying, harassment and sharing of intimate images - being a growing concern in Australia, the government has established the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to coordinate efforts between government, civil society and business. This includes tackling image-based abuse, identifying and removing illegal content and providing a complaint service for cyber-bulling. ICT companies are encouraged to utilise the materials and advice of the eSafety Commissioner to strengthen their due diligence procedures to ensure safeguards are in place to proactively tackle online child sexual exploitation and cyber-bullying, as well as limit children’s access to online pornographic material.
Ensure marketing and advertising respect and support children’s rights
There are rising levels of obesity in Australia. According to latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), overweight and obesity as a major public health issue in Australia. An estimated 1 in 4 (27%) of children and adolescents aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese in 2014-2015. Additionally, for children aged 5-17, the prevalence of overweight and obesity rose from 21% in 1995 to 25% in 2007–08, then remained relatively stable in 2014–15. These rates have increased despite government efforts to reduce marketing and advertising of foods with high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS foods). Therefore, food and beverage companies should take extra precautions to develop healthy alternatives and ensure that marketing practices for HFSS foods are in line with international standards including those developed by the World Health Organisation.
Rates of tobacco consumption are decreasing in Australia. At present, 5.6% of children under the age of 15 consume tobacco products although the rates of alcohol consumption among young people are higher. The Australian government has made significant efforts to reduce youth access to tobacco products. The age limit for purchasing tobacco is 18 years; tobacco advertising is banned in most forms of direct and indirect media; extensive warnings about the dangers of tobacco are placed on tobacco packaging; and all public places are completely smoke-free. Furthermore, Australia was the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products as of 1 December 2012.
Community and Environment
According to the Children’s Rights in the Community and Environment Index, companies operating in or sourcing from Australia should exercise basic due diligence. Australia’s score of 2.4 out of 10 on the Index is primarily due to the impact of natural disasters, and the protection of land rights, particularly for indigenous peoples. To respect and support children’s rights in the community and environment, businesses should:
Ensure children’s rights are respected in relation to the environment
Natural disasters, such as heatwaves, bushfires and floods, are common in Australia. In 2016, these disasters resulted in the displacement of 3,100 people, including children and their families. Disasters can disproportionately impact children’s wellbeing, health and access to essential services. Disasters can be very frightening for children, and may result in psychological harm, particularly if children have lost family members, their homes or possessions. Some disasters, such as bushfires, may adversely impact children’s health, as children are particularly vulnerable to respiratory problems if they inhale large quantities of smoke. Furthermore, disasters may disrupt children’s education or limit their access to medical care.
Businesses operating in Australia can enhance their preparedness by developing emergency response plans in case of natural disasters. The plans should consider the vulnerabilities of children of own employees, as well as children living in local communities.
Respect and support indigenous children’s rights in relation to land acquisition and use
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the first inhabitants of Australia, and they are the oldest continuous culture on the planet. Indigenous children made up around 3.5% of all Australian children in the last census, and children account for almost half (48%) of indigenous people. Indigenous peoples, including children, experience higher rates of poverty and other and disparities in access to health, education, employment and housing compared to the non-indigenous population.
Australia has not ratified the ILO Conventions No. 169 and 107 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. At the time of its passing by the United Nations General Assembly, Australia did not vote in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). However, it subsequently became a signatory in 2009, which shows a symbolic commitment to fulfilling indigenous peoples’ rights.
Australia’s Native Title Act 1993 recognises Aboriginal ownership of land in certain circumstances. However, the extent to which state laws require free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for use of indigenous land or resources is complex, and full FPIC is not always required. Therefore, companies should seek to align all of their activities and operations with the UNDRIP, including the principle of FPIC. Companies should also seek to respect indigenous children’s rights by taking steps to increase the participation of women, children and adolescents in community consultations.
OHCHR, 2012. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding Observations – Australia. Available at: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC%2fC%2fAUS%2fCO%2f4&Lang=en
UNCIEF, 2017. State of the World’s Children 2017. Available at: https://data.unicef.org/
UNICEF Australia, (forthcoming). Children’s Rights and Business National Baseline Assessment. Available at: (forthcoming)
UNICEF Australia, 2017. National Committee Website. Available at: https://www.unicef.org.au/
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