Not So Fair-Trade: Tackling the gender pay gap in the global chocolate industry

March 23, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Fairtrade’s She Deserves campaign aims to tackle the startling pay inequality faced by female cocoa farmers.


What does this mean?

Despite carrying out the majority of the labour in producing the crop, female cocoa farmers are paid as little as 23p a day. This is well below the extreme global poverty line of £1.40 a day. In Ivory Coast, female cocoa farmers make up 68% of the labour force but earn just 21% of the income generated. Julia Nicoara, Director of Public Engagement at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “many of us don’t know the bitter truth of exploited farmers behind much of our chocolate, with women doing much more of the work for much less of the pay”.

 As part of the She Deserves campaign, Fairtrade held its annual Fairtrade Fortnight between 24 February and 8 March 2020. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of the issue through a series of events across the UK. It also aims to persuade the UK government and the global chocolate industry to join the Alliance on Living Incomes in Cocoa, a new international initiative working to increase pay for female cocoa farmers.

What's the big picture effect?

This story highlights the extreme inequality faced by female cocoa farmers. If left unresolved, this could have a detrimental impact on the farmers, their families, and the chocolate industry. The inequality can be explained by the legal systems and cultures in West African countries, where 60% of the world’s cocoa is farmed. In many countries, women cannot own, rent or inherit land. Societal norms favour men as landowners and women are expected to marry and work on their husbands’ land. Therefore, most of the income generated from growing cocoa goes to men, who do not always distribute it fairly to their farmers. Consequently, many farmers cannot afford to provide for their families. 

The future of cocoa farming, and therefore the chocolate industry, is uncertain. The low pay means that fewer young people are entering the profession. Today, the average cocoa farmer is 50 years old. “If the cocoa industry is serious about a long-term sustainable future for their business then they must invest more in the women behind our chocolate”, says Louisa Cox, Director of Impact at the Fairtrade Foundation. Fairtrade is working towards a strong and equal future for the world’s female cocoa farmers, in which we can continue to enjoy our favourite sweet treat with the knowledge that those on the opposite end of the supply chain are being paid fairly.

Report written by Isobel Deane

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