Bangladesh celebrates the World Day Against Child Labour
Urgent call to end the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Bangladesh by 2016
Dhaka 12 June 2010: Eliminating the worst forms of child labour is the most urgent and important task Bangladesh should undertake in line with the new National Child Labour Elimination Policy, said speakers at a National Seminar held today in Dhaka as the country celebrates the World Day Against Child Labour.
The Chief Guest of the seminar was the Minister for Ministry of Labour and Employment and Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, Engr. Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, while the State Minister for Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury was the Special Guest. Gagan Rajbhandari, Director, a.i, International Labour Organization (ILO) and Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative, were also present.
The worst forms of child labour are defined by the ILO Convention No. 182 and refer to work, which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
There are 1.3 million children in Bangladesh who are engaged in hazardous jobs or work 43 hours or more per week. Based on a survey for determining hazardous child labour sectors in Bangladesh conducted in 2005 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 45 hazardous activities/sectors have been identified. These range from brick breaking to aluminum manufacturing, battery recharging to leather tanning. In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved or trafficked, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities. In Bangladesh, 93 per cent of working children are employed in the informal sector which makes the monitoring of child labour more difficult.
The National Seminar titled ‘National Child Labour Elimination Policy and Next Steps’ discussed the concrete measures that are necessary to translate into reality the provisions of the policy adopted by the Government in March this year.
‘This policy is well complemented by the recently adopted National Education policy which is extending free compulsory education till grade 8 and matches with provisions of the ILO Convention No. 138, i.e. no child under 14 years of age should be engaged in any occupation. Besides, the Government has put enormous efforts in order to mainstream child labour issue into the national development plans and programmes, PRSP–II, Education for All policies are some of the examples”, said the Minister for the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, Engr. Khandker Mosharraf Hossain. ‘Now the most important work for us is to implement this policy effectively and efficiently and for that we need to establish a strong National Child Labour Welfare Council; a very practical and workable Plan of Action with specific time-frame, clearly defined roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders, measurable indicators; and resource mobilization from public, private, and international and non-governmental organization’, the Minister added.
Ten years after the ILO’s Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour came into force, the ILO Director said that too many children remained trapped in unacceptable forms of labour: “The Government, after consultation with the organizations of employers and workers concerned, should urgently formalize the list of hazardous occupations prohibited to children under the 18 years of age,” said Gagan Rajbhandari, Director, a.i, International Labour Organization. “This will give the list legal force as well as send a clear signal to employers that such occupations should never be given to children. Moreover, the list will be used for awareness raising and development of a time-bound plan of action by concerned stakeholders”, he added.
The need for strengthened coordination across sectors, including between stakeholders such as national and international organizations, workers’ and employers’ organizations and community members was also emphasized.
In order to engage a social movement against child labour, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs announced the launch of a national campaign which promotes school as ‘the best place for a child to work’. UNICEF, with technical support from the ILO, is supporting this campaign which will disseminate messages through national media, interactive popular theatre, posters, leaflets, social mobilization activities and school debates.
“Lack of education perpetuates the inter-generational circle of poverty,” said UNICEF Representative Carel de Rooy. “To break this cycle, investing in children’s education is essential. This can be done through non-formal education programmes, but also through effective social protection schemes that will help overcome the barrier of cost for the poorest families, who cannot afford to send their children to school. Investing a larger proportion of the social safety net resources in the most vulnerable children, who currently are provided with only 1 percent of these resources, would be an important step forward. Along with these social measures, we also need to combat the social acceptance of child labour.”
According to the latest national child labour survey in 2003, the most common reason for a child not to be enrolled in school is an inability to bear educational expenses. The second most commonly cited reason is the child’s participation in household economic activities. In 2006, another survey revealed that the highest rates of child labour are found in slum areas where the lowest school attendance rate is also recorded.
• ILO: Sharfuddin Khan, Programme Officer, Urban Informal Economy Project, Tel: (880-2)9127766, 9143516, Cell: 01713-017704, E-mail: email@example.com