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map of South Asian Country - Bangladesh

Socioeconomic indicators

  • - Total population (millions), 2004: 153 (i)
  • - Annual population growth rate(%), 2005 - 15:1.6 (i)
  • - Population under age 15 (% of total), 2005:35.2 (i)
  • - Urban population (% of total), 2005:25.1 (i)
  • - Infant mortality rate(per 1,000 live births), 2005:73 (i)
  • -% of children aged 5 - 14 thatare working : 13.4% (iii)
  • - Youth literacy rate (%, age 15-24), 2005: 63.6 (i)
  • - Female youth literacy rate (%, age 15-24), 2005: 60.3 (i)
  • - Primary school enrolment ratio (gross), 2000 - 07: Male 87/Female 91 (ii)
  • - Secondary school enrolment ration (gross), 2000 - 07: Male 43/Female 45 (ii)
  • - Net primary school attendance, 2000 - 07 (%): Male 79/Female 84 (ii)
  • - GDP/capita (PPP US$), 2005:2,053 (i)
  • - Unemployment rate (% of labour force), 1996-2005: 4.3 (i)
  • - Population living below $2 a day (%), 2005:84.0 (ii)

(i) Human Development Report 2007-08
(ii) UNICEF: The State of the World’s Children 2009
(iii) ILO:SIMPOC: Bangladesh Child Labour Country Brief

Child labour situation

In 2002 - 03, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) conducted the second National Child Labour Survey (NCLS) ( 1 ). This survey has been designed and conducted in the context of the commitments made by the Government of Bangladesh, following the ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182) 1999. According to the survey, there are 4.9 million working children ( 2 ) Ś 14.2 per cent of the total 35.06 million children in the age group of 5-14 years. The total working child population between 5 and 17 years old is estimated at 7.9 million.

  • The proportion of boy and girl child workers, in the age group of 5-17 years, is 73.5 per cent and 26.5 per cent, respectively;
  • The total number of working children aged 5-17 years in rural areas is estimated at 6.4 million as against 1.5 million in urban areas;
  • As many as 93.3 per cent of all working children in the age group of 5-17 years operate in the informal sector. Agriculture engages 4.5 million (56.4 per cent children), while the services sector engages 2 million (25.9 per cent), and industry, 1.4 million (17.7 per cent);
  • A total of 1.3 million children are estimated to be working 43 hours or more per week. More boys than girls are engaged in this form of child labour across all age groups.

Parallel to the National Child Labour Survey, an establishment survey and five baseline surveys on the worst forms of child labour in five segments (welding, automobiles, street children, battery re-charging, and transport) have also been conducted under the supervision of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics with technical and financial support from the ILO. The final reports of the establishment survey and the baseline surveys are now available. The factors that generate child labour in Bangladesh can be summarized as follows:

  • Extreme forms of poverty play a crucial role. Child labour is part of a vicious cycle, with poverty as a main cause as well as a main consequence. This implies that child labour cannot be addressed in isolation. Among factors contributing to child labour are rapid population growth, adult unemployment, bad working conditions, lack of minimum wages, exploitation of workers, low standard of living, low quality of education, lack of legal provisions and enforcement, low capacity of institutions, gender discrimination and traditional arguments in favour of child labour. One or more of the above contribute to the large numbers of children working under exploitative or hazardous conditions.
  • There is a direct link between child labour and education. Nearly 50 per cent of primary school students drop out before they complete grade 5, and then gravitate towards work, adding to the number of child labourers. The high drop-out rates are correlated with the low quality of public primary education, low adult literacy, low awareness of the importance of education, teacher-student ratio (sometimes this goes up to 1 per 100), non-availability of didactic and learning materials, and the cost of education. Basic primary education is free as far as direct costs and school books are concerned. But many indirect costs are involved as well, such as transport, uniforms, pens, pencils, and notebooks.
  • Bangladesh has only limited provision for pre-vocational/vocational skills training and there are related constraints such as the quality of the skills training, market and employment linkages and certification. While this could be an attractive option to working/disadvantaged children and their families, neither the Government of Bangladesh nor many of the non-governmental organizations have the institutional capacity and technical expertise required to deliver skills training facilities effectively;
  • Finally, the level of awareness on the issue of child labour and laws prohibiting it is still low. Society in general has a rather indifferent attitude towards the problem. In many cases, it is not realised that the children who are employed in, for example, domestic service, often have no access to education or medical care.

Note 1 - A first study was carried out in 1995 - 96 with the support of the ILO.
Note 2 - This figure does not include economically active children who are unemployed.

Last update: 26 October 2009 ^ top