Poverty behind much of child labour

Published: 00:00, Nov 30,2018


A cross-section of people share their views about child labour with New Age staff correspondent Rashad Ahamad

Md Nurul Islam
Professor, Institute of Social Welfare and Research,
Dhaka University

Although per capita income of people in the country has increased, socio-economic condition of general people is still very poor. On this practical ground, poor people who cannot earn their living are being compelled to send their children to work.
Some other children who have no shelter for various causes such as becoming orphaned or parents’ divorce are forced to engage in child labour.
If you consider 40 lakh families living in Dhaka city, at least 30 lakh of them have domestic workers most of whom are child workers. These children are abused by their employers.
If her/his parents had the capability, they would never send them to work. It is obvious that no child willingly engages in labour.
There are various types of discrimination in society. The disparity in income is huge. It is almost impossible to imagine the gap between the income of an industrialist and that of a day labourer. The families which send their children to work, they do so mostly because of acute poverty while some child workers are victims of family feud/broken family.
Yes, child labour in formal sector, particularly in garment sector, has reduced but in informal sector it is still acute.
Thousands of children are working in welding workshop, aluminium factory, transport sector and bidi factories.
Many of them even work for food only and work for unlimited hours. They lead an inhuman life. I think there is no bidi factory devoid of child labour though it is hazardous for children. The children working in bidi factory suffer from acute health problems.
Now the question is how to eliminate child labour? Considering ground reality of poverty, social misconception and demand, Bangladesh cannot get rid of child labour overnight.
In our country social crisis is very acute, which dominates other things, including the legal aspect of the problem.
So, the government first of all should set some policies which can ensure children’s working hours, wage, education and other rights even after deploying in labour.
It might protect many children in various ways and gradually the scenario would be improved.
Another quick remedy could be if the government would take full responsibility of these children because their parents failed to bear the responsibility. The government can easily do it.
NOGs and other stakeholders can help the government implement it as I know there are many such centres on a small scale extending supports to particular groups of children.

Afroza Khan
Secretary, ministry of labour and employment

Child labour is a severe problem of the country. I think lack of awareness and immediate cash return from children are driving the families to engage them as labourers though poverty is the main cause behind the huge number of working children in the country.
It is not possible to bring down child labour to zero level all on a suddenly. It can be done only gradually.
To eliminate child labour from all sectors, especially from hazardous child labour, we have formed national, district and upazila level committees which are working very well. Regularly they report to the ministry. I have found that a number of upazilas are already free of child
Besides, a mega project worth Tk 284 crore is under implementation for elimination of child labourers. Under it, one lakh children will be provided with basic education and life skills training. The project, supposed to begin in January 2019 and end in December 2020, will be implemented in 14 child labour prone areas including Dhaka and all city corporation areas.
Under the project, we will provide non-formal education to the small children, vocational training for younger children and stipend money for families.
Of course, education for all can play a vital role in eliminating child labour and thus we are working for ensuring education on a priority basis for reducing child
Unavailability of primary school and lack of skills-based education are also responsible for pushing many children to work.
We are also working for sensitising the employers to not appointing any children in their factories. To stop it, law is a strong weapon. So, we have proposed that punishment for the perpetrators who employ children should be increased.
We still are working on the basis of the child labour survey in 2013 and we need updated statistics. The ministry has a plan for an updated survey of child labour

Abdus Shahid Mahmood
Director, Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum

It is a harsh truth that despite the government initiatives thousands of children are engaged in work that are hazardous for their physical and mental well-being and that deprive them of the basic rights.
Both push and pull factors are behind the existence of child labour across the country.
Firstly poverty and secondly lack of awareness are push factors while cheap labour and oppression and exploitation of children are pull factors behind the child labour.
To eliminate hazardous child labour, the government set vision 2021 and all types of child labour by 2025. Child labour elimination during the time frame is surely possible but challenging.
If the government takes cooperation from other stakeholders coming forward with sincerity and transparency, there will be no child labour in the country. The government should give pay more attention to supply chain of child labour. Address the source of child labour first and then implement law against the violators.
It is not too difficult for the government to support the vulnerable families which engage children in work. Strong monitoring is needed so that none can engage children in work.
Child labour is a social problem and it should be solved through social initiatives and then comes law enforcement. Civil society members and media can play an effective role in eradicating child labour.
The government in the meantime has taken a number of initiatives but those are working very slowly. I think the government is still on the right track and except some decisions it is doing not bad.
Immediately the government should include child domestic work in the list of 38 types of hazardous works and ratify ILO convention 138.
Domestic girl child labours are being abused. In a study, Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum has found that over 17 per cent child domestic workers are sexually abused but the real figure is much higher than this.

Afzal Kabir Khan
Child labour specialist

The government has success in eradication of child labour but failed to reduce hazardous child labour despite moves.
Beside hazardous child labour, a huge number of children across the country are involved in the worst form of child labour, including sex work, begging and pornography. These types of worst child labour are also prohibited by ILO convention 182 that Bangladesh has ratified.
You may see that child labour in urban area is much higher than the rural areas. I think rural people were getting benefits of social safety net programmes.
It is a lesson learnt that social safety net programmes eradicate child labour in rural area.
The government can expand the social safety net programme addressing child labour issue.
Undoubtedly poverty is the main cause of child labour in Bangladesh but there are some other causes which have been driving children to work, even in hazardous works.
There are many parents who have ability to continue the study of their children but they force children to work.
They mainly consider immediate return and not the mental and physical hazards they are pushing their children into. Actually, the parents are not aware.
You know, now people do not need much money for primary and secondary education but many parents find completing general education not of much use.
Here I give emphasise on vocational training and skills-based education.
People are unaware about law against child labour as the law is hardly implemented.
Not only the uneducated parents but the rich and educated elite persons not know about the law. There is a Domestic Workers’ Protection and Welfare Policy but very few people know about it.
If the government can enforce the existing law after increasing punishment it would help in many ways eradicate child labour.
Some employers think that they are employing children for the welfare of the poor family but reality is that the employers are getting benefits by engaging children in work.
I strongly believe that if the government can ensure compulsory level education for all children, there will be no child labour.
Child labour is an illegal and inhuman activity that destroys huge future potentials. To eradicate child labour, the government should ensure life skills training.

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