Child Labour in Bangladesh

Sabbir breaking bricks after dropping out of school
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The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics published the provisional report of the “National Child Labour Survey 2022” on 19 July 2023. The 2022 survey finds that Bangladesh has 39.96 million children (51.79% boys and 48.21% girls) aged five to 17 years. Among these 4.4 percent (1,776,097) are engaged in child labour, 60.14 percent (1,068,212) of whom are engaged in hazardous child labour.

The previous survey published in 2013 found that the number of children aged between five and 17 years was 39.65 million, among whom 4.3 percent (1,698,894) were engaged in child labour, 75.35 percent (1,280,195) of whom were engaged in hazardous child labour.

While there has been a slight increase in the number of working children and children engaged in child labour attributable to COVID-19, the number of children engaged in hazardous child labour decreased significantly due to various initiatives undertaken by the government. The Government of Bangladesh is working towards reducing child labour through the National Plan of Action on Elimination of Child Labour 2021-2025.

The objectives of the national child labour survey were to identify the number of working children, and children engaged in child labour, and hazardous child labour. The survey sought to also obtain gender disaggregated information on the child population according to location and economic sectors they are engaged in, and their educational status.

The survey found that more boys than girls were engaged in child labour, even hazardous child labour.

Rural areas account for 75.94 percent (30,349,052) of the country’s children aged between five and 17 years, but the rate of child labour is comparable in both rural and urban settings; 4.4 percent in rural areas and 4.6 percent in urban areas, while those engaged in hazardous child labour are 2.7 percent in rural areas and 2.4 percent in urban areas.

In terms of economic sectors, 1.27 million children were engaged in the service sector, 1.19 million in the industrial sector and 1.08 million in agriculture.

The Bangladesh National Child Labour Survey was part of the UK-funded Asia Regional Child Labour Programme designed to step up gradual elimination of child labour, particularly in its worst forms. It covered six countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.

ILO has been working to eliminate child labour in Bangladesh since 1994 through the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). IPEC worked with employers’ and workers’ organizations, research organizations, academia, and civil society to implement various activities aimed at ending child labour.

Another project, the “Country Level Engagement and Assistance to Reduce Child Labour” (CLEAR) supported by the US Department of Labor worked to improve the capacity of the government to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

The Government of Bangladesh ratified the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No.182) on 12 March 2001. The Government also ratified ILO’s Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) on 22 March 2022; and the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) on 20 January 2022.

The Government also adopted a revised National Plan of Action  to Eliminate Child Labour 2021-25 in December 2021. It formed a National Child Labour Welfare Council (NCLWC) headed by the Labour Minister with Divisional, District, and sub-district level Child Labour Welfare Councils to guide the implementation of the NPA in coordination with other relevant 18 ministries. It has further updated the list of hazardous child work across 43 sectors to guide strategic elimination of hazardous child labour.

ILO supported an NGO to pilot a community-based Child Labour Monitoring System (CLMS) targeting a sub-district of Thakurgaon through holistic approach by identifying the children in child labour, making necessary linkages for children to be withdrawn from work for their return to school, and linking the children’s families to local government social safety net programmes, or connecting them to work or business training.
Currently, ILO is contributing to:
a.    Developing a credible knowledge base on the extent of child labour, its drivers, and causes to inform the Government’s policies and plans.
b.    Ensuring laws and policies are consistent with international standards, and are reflected, implemented, and enforced in the National Plan of Action.
c.    Testing of new models that promote holistic elimination of child labour and creating robust, effective monitoring and rehabilitation of rescued children.