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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 narrative provides a brief analysis of the data behind the Children’s Rights and Business Atlas and is meant to be a general guide for 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 guidance, 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/Image_9870/Melker Dahlstrand
Sweden has a population of 10 million people, of whom about 2 million (or 20%) are under the age of 18. 85% of the population lives in cities. Sweden is a diverse country, with 15% of Swedes having been born in another country, including one in five children with a family with roots in another country.
According to the Children’s Rights in the Workplace Index, companies operating in, or sourcing from, Sweden, should exercise moderate due diligence with regard to working conditions for parents and young workers. Sweden’s score of 1.7 out of 10 is due to strong labour protections and high levels of trade union density. While there is no generally applicable minimum wage in the country, wages are set in most sectors through collective bargaining at the industry level. The government has ratified the core ILO conventions on child labour, forced labour, non-discrimination and freedom of association, but has yet to ratify others relevant to decent work for parents, such as the Convention on Maternity Protection (No. 183). To respect and support children’s rights in the workplace, businesses should:
Provide decent work for parents and caregivers
Parental leave in Sweden is longer than the majority of countries. Following the birth or adoption of a child, both parents are entitled to 480 days (or 16 months) of paid leave, which can be shared between mothers and fathers. Leave is paid at 80% of earnings for the first 13 months, and the remaining three months are paid at a flat rate set by the social insurance agency. Generous parental leave allows for greater maternal and paternal bonding with infants. These provisions also improve gender equality in the workforce by entitling mothers to return to work in the same position and by requiring both fathers and mothers to take a minimum of least three months of the 480-day leave period. Parents are also allowed an additional 120 days of leave to care for a sick child under the age of 12.
Despite these generous provisions, children can still be impacted negatively by the working conditions of parents in Sweden. In particular, migrant workers may face working conditions that may amount to forced labour, including deceptive recruitment practices, withholding of wages and high recruitment fees in the restaurant and berry picking sectors. Despite this risk, Sweden has yet to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Contribute to the elimination of child labour
Child labour is not common in Sweden. The minimum age of employment is 16, and secondary school is free and compulsory until the same age. However, some child labour risks stem from human trafficking and can take the form of forced begging, criminal activity and sexual exploitation. The number of unaccompanied migrant children has risen since 2015, and many of these children go missing each year after their asylum applications have been rejected. Unaccompanied migrant children can be particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.
Companies should exercise due diligence to ensure that working conditions in operations and supply chains, particularly for adult and adolescent migrants, do not have an adverse impact.
According to the Children’s Rights in the Marketplace Index, companies in Sweden should exercise moderate due diligence. Sweden scores 2.6 out of 10 in the Index, which is in large part due to some gaps in the regulation of marketing to children and parents (i.e., in relation to HFSS foods). To respect and support children’s rights in the marketplace, businesses should:
Ensure that products and services are safe
ICT companies should take steps to ensure that safeguards are in place to tackle the online dissemination of child pornography. Based on Interpol data, Sweden has been identified as a major European country of origin for perpetrators tied to child sexual abuse images. Swedish laws prohibit online child pornography, and make it a crime to disseminate, transfer, grant use, exhibit or make available child pornographic material. The criminal laws also prohibit cases of sexual exploitation that occur outside of Sweden, meaning that perpetrators can be prosecuted in Sweden for commercial sexual exploitation that occurs in other countries. There are also voluntary safeguards in place to prevent dissemination, such as a cooperation between the police and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to implement an anti-dissemination filter. This filter blocks internet users from accessing websites with depictions of child sexual exploitation.
Ensure marketing and advertising respect and support children’s rights
Sweden has made notable strides in promoting children’s health and nutrition through responsible marketing practices. However, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is just 14%, which is well below the global average of 43%. According to UNICEF and WHO guidelines, breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life is important for child health. Sweden has adopted a few provisions of the International Code on Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes into law. Although national laws prohibit the marketing of infant formula, limited implementation of the Code could be a contributing factor to low exclusive breastfeeding rates. Companies should therefore ensure that their marketing practices align with the International Code, in order to avoid negatively impacting child health.
Rates of obesity and overweight for both children and adults are rising in Sweden. According to WHO data, in 2016 23.7% of children and adolescents aged 5-19 are overweight, compared with 14.6% in 1976. National laws regulate marketing and advertising; however, there are no specific regulations on the marketing of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods to children. There is a self-regulatory organisation on marketing and advertising (Stiftelsen Reklamombudsmannen), and an industry code for responsible advertising, but these also do not specifically address marketing to children. Companies should therefore take steps to ensure that marketing practices do not target children (i.e., through school advertising or digital platforms) with potentially harmful products.
Sweden has a comprehensive national framework on consumer protection, and the law requires that faulty or dangerous products be reported by retailers and manufactures to the Swedish Consumer Agency. Following this, the manufacturer or retailer must immediately issue a product recall. UNICEF and WHO report that, since the 1980s, Sweden has been the country with the lowest rate of child deaths due to accidental injuries in the world. The low rates of child death are in large part due to due to safety regulations, education campaigns and the country’s commitment to leadership on safety issues.
Community and Environment
According to the Children’s Rights in the Community and Environment Index, companies in Sweden should exercise basic due diligence. Sweden scores 2.3 out of 10 in the index, largely due to the country’s good performance on socio-economic indicators. Education is free and compulsory until 16 years of age, and primary and secondary enrolment rates are over 99% and 95% respectively. The country has also implemented child protection services on a larger scale, according to WHO data. 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
Sweden is known for being a leading country on tackling environmental issues, having signed and ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Paris Agreement. The country also has robust environmental policies and protections, and renewable energy sources account for 48% of energy production in the country. As a result of progressive environmental policies the country has low child death rates due to ambient air pollution (0 deaths per 100,000 children) and unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene (1.1 deaths per 100,000). Nevertheless, Sweden still faces challenges surrounding conservation of forests, air pollution and contaminated ground water.
Respect and support for indigenous children’s rights in relation to land acquisition and use
The most disadvantaged children in Sweden include migrant, minorities and indigenous children. The indigenous Sami people live in the northern part of the Scandinavian peninsula, in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. The Swedish government has voted in favour of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights (UNDRIP), but has not yet ratified the ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (No. 169). Generally, Swedish laws protect the rights Sami people – for instance, in the ownership, use, develop and control of their traditional lands, including the right not to be relocated without free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Nevertheless, the Sami sometimes face challenges in exercising their land rights. In 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people noted that the Sami people in Sweden face increasing pressures on their traditional lands from mining and wind-power development projects. The Special Rapporteur has also received complaints that communities have been relocated due to mining projects without adequate consent. Where communities are relocated, children can have their education disrupted, and may be at increased risk of poverty when communities lose their traditional livelihoods. Companies operating in particular operating in extractives industries should take steps to ensure that the respect the land rights of indigenous peoples through FPIC.
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