Nike and Child Labor: Case Study


Businesses of whichever kind are expected to exercise ethics in all avenues to ensure the customers’ and workers’ wellbeing is prioritized. Nike, Inc. is one of the prominent multinational firms that has been in the spotlight for controversies related to mistreatments of its employees. Currently, the organization is ranked as the largest distributor of athletic footwear, apparel, and other sporting resources globally. Moreover, the business that is valued at $32 billion has employed 76,700 individuals who work in different retail stores and manufacturing industries across the globe (Swanson, 2020). Nonetheless, despite the company’s successes in the global business platform, Nike has been accused of exploiting its workers in the name of obtaining cheap labor for a long time. It is, therefore, necessary to use the business as a case study to analyze the motives behind child labor and the steps that can be taken to mitigate similar unethical business behaviors.

Background of the Main Topic

Nike has been accused of numerous incidences of illegal handling of its employees. For instance, the company is said to be using sweatshops for manufacturing clothing and shoes. Moreover, Nike, Inc. was founded on a model that focused on utilizing the lowest labor cost that can be accessed, which resulted in exploiting its workers and employment of minors. The company focused so much on building its name globally and earning more profits that it neglected its role in upholding workers’ wellbeing. These wrongful acts have mainly been evident in factories located in Taiwan, Pakistan, China, and South Korea (Mistreanu, 2020). Even though the company denied related allegations in the early years of its development, anti-sweatshop protests from activists forced Nike to rethink its employment strategies.

Pakistan is a perfect case study of Nike’s exploitation of young ones as a source of cheap labor. It is alleged that for many years the company made use of child labor in the manufacture of soccer balls in the South Asian country. Even with existing government regulations within the country, there are still reported cases of the business exploiting children. Pakistan is widely known to be the source of manufactured sporting products in the international market, mainly from Nike (Swanson, 2020). However, these contributions are supported by the high level of child labor in the nation’s domestic and export sectors. Nike has directly supported such unethical and illegal acts, with every soccer ball manufactured in Pakistan said to have been produced by underage children.

Nonetheless, it is essential to note that even though Pakistan is leading in the number of child labor cases propagated by Nike, there are other affected countries. Approximately 200 children between 4 and 5 years old are actively involved in the company’s production process. Nike’s strategy focuses on investing in developing countries because they are a source of extremely cheap labor as most of the citizens struggle to meet their basic needs. Such nations lack proper human rights unions to help them fight against the wrong and are also under authoritarian leaders who are selfish and careless about protecting people (Filip et al., 2018). As a result, Nike has highly benefited from opening factories in these regions at the expense of the safety of the hired children.

Consequently, Nike’s success in the sports gear and equipment industry is not a result of exceptional marketing strategies or a positive brand name. It is based on the toil of tortured workers, among them young children. However, it is difficult to blame a specific entity because the Pakistani government and other affected countries have a role in safeguarding their citizens. Nonetheless, this is not an excuse for Nike to accept underage workers. The company has related policies, and they must avoid business strategies that undermine human rights as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Thoughts and Opinions of Nike’s Case

My thoughts on Nike’s case are that regardless of its reason to use children as workers, it is unethical and should never be tolerated. There is a legal age for employment stipulated by local governments and global human rights organizations. Therefore, Nike’s decisions to allow young ones to participate in their production processes illegal. Additionally, the Pakistani case illustrates that the company exploits children who are as young as four years old (Filip et al., 2018). It would be a little bit fair if the victims were teenagers because at least this group is developed physically. However, kids that young are still fragile and vulnerable to infections and physical injuries.

Moreover, child labor is a form of modern slavery that should be treated with more seriousness. Nike’s situation is an example of other complex cases where the hired children work so as to help meet the needs of their families. Consequently, addressing the issue effectively is determined by companies’ ability to make ethical choices. Children that young need to be taken care of by older people and not vice versa. It is of no benefit if the young ones are paid little money to help their families while missing school and risking their health. Additionally, corporate social responsibility demands that Nike works together with human rights unions and local governments to protect the needs of communities. Unfortunately, the company is slack in demonstrating any efforts meant to promote a sustainable society. It is also heartbreaking that the Pakistani government has not placed proper measures to combat child labor.

Analysis of Nike’s Involvement in Child Labor

Even though my position on Nike’s participation in child labor is that the company is wrong, it is necessary to conduct an analysis that considers both sides of the argument. One of the most critical choices profit organizations face is their response toward child exploration and forced labor. Many factors contribute to the two issues leading to dilemmas on what decisions to make as a company. Even companies that have been categorized as ethically responsible such as Apple, have had incidences of child labor (Shaikh, 2020). Consequently, it is necessary to point out the elements that might have contributed to Nike’s situation, particularly in Pakistan.

As pointed out earlier, Pakistan and other countries, including India and China, which are victims of child and forced labor in Nike’s hands, are developing nations. Consequently, whereas it might be easy to blame Nike, it is essential to note that families in such regions are immersed in debts pushing parents to send their children to factories. Moreover, the low literacy levels among caregivers further intensify the problem because they lack an understanding of child rights (Shaikh, 2020). Additionally, with a prevalence of poverty in such regions, parents see no need to take their children to school because they do not believe it will make any difference.

Consequently, as a professional who is against child exploitation and represents all workers’ rights, I understand that Nike’s situation might be influenced by a dilemma. One of the corporate social responsibilities is improving the communities where a company operates. Parents in Pakistani are incapable of supplying their family needs comfortably, and that is why they see the need for sending their children to work (Jackson et al., 2018). Therefore, the motivation behind Nike’s choice to hire young ones might not be cheap labor but a way of helping the families. Although this is an assumption, it is a point to be considered as a future manager who wishes to promote human rights as part of corporate social responsibility while improving the lives of community members.

From Nike’s case, several child labor solutions can be deduced. Firstly, brands need to engage their clients because consumers are steadily becoming socially conscious. It is necessary to let them understand the organization’s position and plans when such incidences arise. Everybody wants to associate with companies that demonstrate ethics and corporate social responsibility. Secondly, human resource managers have a duty of identifying issues affecting workers and listening to their complaints (Jackson et al., 2018). For instance, in Nike’s situation, the company’s leadership must have noted that the economic conditions of Pakistan are noted favorable and be considerate of the wages allocated for the workers. Finally, companies should provide alternatives to work for children who are victims of exploitation. There are bound to be cases of child labor, and it is upon brands to ensure the young ones’ safety and engage in supporting activities.


Companies, particularly those with branches in developing countries, are bound to face child labor. Nike’s case in Pakistan is heartbreaking because reports indicate young ones of about 4 and 5 years working in soccer balls production lines. Even though various factors, such as struggling families push companies to the dilemma of hiring children, upholding human rights should always be a priority. As a future manager, it is imperative to exercise ethics and corporate social responsibilities when working in such complicated environments.


Filip, I., Radfar, A., Asgharzadeh, S., & Quesada, F. (2018). Challenges and perspectives of child labor. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 27(1), 17-18. Web.

Jackson, G., Doellgast, V., & Baccaro, L. (2018). Corporate social responsibility and labour standards: Bridging business management and employment relations perspectives. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 56(1), 3-13. Web.

Mistreanu, S. (2020). Study links Nike, Adidas and Apple to forced Uighur labor. Forbes. Web.

Shaikh, A. (2020). Child labour in India: Causes and consequences. SSRN Electronic Journal. Web.

Swanson, A. (2020). Nike and Coca-Cola lobby against Xinjiang Forced Labor Bill. NY Times. Web.

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