Financial crisis and child labour
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child. Section 1 of the Labour Code excludes many sectors of the economy in which children work, including small farms, family enterprises, street work, and domestic service, from the scope of application of the Labour Code. According to the US Department of Labour, (Chart 1) in 2006 over 3.7 million (about 10%) children in Bangladesh aged 5--14 are engaged in child labour. In detail we can see very clearly in the following pie chart. The penalty for the employment of a child or adolescent in contravention of the provisions of the Labour Code, as determined in section 284, is a fine amounting to 5,000 taka.
Other key findings by UNICEF (Chart 2) that, the agriculture sector is significantly increasing. Nearly 28 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 years and 35 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 years in child labour are. Child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age. When household chores performed for at least 21 hours per week are taken into account, the gender gap in child labour narrows. The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (14 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (5 per cent).
The Bangladesh Labour Act of 2006 combined and amended a number of laws relating to the employment of workers, minimum wages, compensation for work--related injuries, the formation of trade unions, health and safety, the welfare and working environment of employees, and other related issues. The Act also provides for compensation to workers for injuries sustained in the workplace. The Act applies to both permanent workers and workers employed through a contractor. Under the Act, a contractor who employs workers is treated as an employer and is liable for any violations of the provisions of the law.
The report points to a significant rise in the number of children aged 5 to 11 years in child labour, who now account for just over half of the total global figure. The number of children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work----defined as work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals----has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016. The report warns that globally, nine million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic. A simulation model shows this number could rise to 46 million if they don't have access to critical social protection coverage.
Additional economic shocks and school closures caused by COVID--19 mean that children already in child labour may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, while many more may be forced into the worst forms of child labour due to job and income losses among vulnerable families.
Poverty is widely recognised and acknowledged as the primary cause of child labour. The link between poverty and child labour is supported by efforts of international organizations, such as the ILO and the United Nations, to reduce child labour through poverty reduction policies. There is a strong negative correlation between the income level of a country and the incidence rate of child labour.
An increase from $0-$500 per capita income to $500-$1000 per capita income can lead to a decrease in child labour incidence rate from 30%-60% to 10%-30%. Although the annual per capita income of Bangladesh has been increasing, around 9-13% of the total labour force in Bangladesh still consists of children aged 5-14. In a 2013 statistical report, UNICEF estimates that around 43.3% of the population in Bangladesh is currently living below the international poverty line.
"With school closures in place since March 2020 and poverty levels rising amidst the pandemic, UNICEF is concerned that growing numbers of children are being pushed into child labour. Families are struggling to cope and using every available means to survive. We need to prioritize the needs of children and address the wider social issues that enable these harmful practices to continue," said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh.
Facts on Child Labour in Bangladesh: The country has made significant progress on child labour reduction in recent decades. Data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) indicates a 50 per cent reduction in child labour from 2003 to 2013. In 2003, 3.2 million children were estimated to be engaged in child labour, while in 2013, this figure had reduced to 1.7 million children. However, it is alarming to note that in 2013, 1.2 million children were trapped in the worst forms of child labour that involve hazardous working conditions. Planning is underway for the ILO and BBS to produce an updated survey report on child labour by early 2022.
The number of children in labour force has risen to 160 million worldwide - an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years - with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID--19, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF.
Section 34 prohibits the employment of children (children are defined under the Labour Act as persons less than 14 years of age) in any occupation. It also describes the conditions under which adolescents (children over 14 and under 18 years of age) are allowed to work. Conversely we often find them for household chores, street workers, and baggers; which is the most touching part of this generation. Not only that but also at the bidi factory 4 years workers reported by Al Jazeera.
Yasmin Ara, Freelance writer, Former Librarian, Asian University of Women