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map of South Asian Country - Nepal

Socioeconomic indicators

  • - Total population (millions), 2004:27 (i)
  • - Annual population growth rate (%), 2005/15:1.9 (i)
  • - Population under age 15 (% of total), 2005:39 (i)
  • - Urban population (% of total), 2005:15.8 (i)
  • - Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births), 2005:56 (i)
  • - Youth literacy rate (%, age 15-24), 1995/05:70.1 (i)
  • - Female youth literacy rate (%, age 15-24),2005:60.1 (i)
  • - Primary school enrolment ratio (gross), 2000/07: Male 91/Female 87 (ii)
  • - Secondary school enrolment ratio (gross), 2000/07: Male 46/ Female 41 (ii)
  • - Net primary school attendance (%), 2000/07: Male 86/ Female 82 (ii)
  • - GDP/capita (PPP US$), 2005:1,550 (i)
  • - Unemployment rate (% of labour force), 2005:1.8 (i)
  • - Population living below $2 a day (%), 1990/05:68.5 (i)

(i) Human Development Report 2007-08
(ii) UNICEF: The State of the World’s Children 2009

Child labour situation

Child labour remains a major economic and social phenomenon in Nepal. According to the National Child Labour Survey undertaken in 1997 ( 1 ), 1.660 million children (26.6 per cent) out of the total 6.225 million children aged between 5 and 14 years in the country are economically active ( 2 ).

  • Among the 1.660 million economically active children, boys (54 per cent) outnumber girls (46 per cent) ( 3 );
  • Many of these children do not go to schools (14.54 per cent of the boys and 25.96 per cent of the girls) ( 4 );
  • The large part (94.7 per cent, 1.576 million) of the economically active children are engaged in the agriculture sector, mostly as unpaid family workers and partly as forced labour attached to their parents under debt bondage or similar other exploitative labour. Besides agriculture, working children are mainly involved in the services sector (27,000) and communications and transportation sector (26,000) ( 5 );
  • Based on several studies conducted under the IPEC Time-Bound Programme (TBP) ( 6 ), it is estimated that there are 127,143 children working in the worst forms of child labour — as bonded labourers, ragpickers, porters, domestic workers, in mines, in the carpet sector, and being trafficked. According to the same studies, the children involved in these forms of child labour start working between the ages of 10 and 14. In addition, more than one-third of them are illiterate, and a majority are school dropouts, who have been brought to their present workplace by their parents or relatives. It also appears that they all come from landless and relatively large families. Finally, more than 80 per cent of children trapped in the worst forms of child labour have migrated for work. With the exception of children bonded into agricultural labour and children working as long distance porters in the rural areas of Nepal, the vast majority of children work in urban areas.

Factors that generate child labour in Nepal can be summarized as follows:

  • On the demand side, while the society at large is aware of the ill effects of child labour, both to the individual child as well as to the nation, the existing societal attitude remains largely indifferent to it. Legal provisions on safeguarding child rights and preventing child labour are inadequate in enforcement and children continue to be hired as child labourers. In rural areas, children work mostly in the agricultural sector, while in urban areas, they can be found in almost all kinds of work requiring manual labour;
  • The supply side of this is characterised by illiteracy of the parents, lack of access to as well as low perceived value of education, disharmony and diminishing family support, subsistence livelihoods that push families, particularly in rural areas, to send their children to work;
  • The civil war is another factor contributing to child labour in Nepal. In rural areas, many families prefer to send their children to urban areas for fear of them being caught in the cross-fire, or becoming a victim of the security forces or Maoists. As a result, these children enter the child labour market and very often end up in the worst forms of child labour.

Note 1 - Central Department of Population Studies, Tribhuwan University: Child labour situation in Nepal — Report from migration and employment survey, 1995/96 (Kathmandu, 1997), survey undertaken with the support of the ILO.
Note 2 - 'Economic activity' includes both paid and unpaid, casual and illegal work as well as work in the informal sector, but excludes unpaid domestic services within own household.
Note 3 - Central Department of Population Studies, Tribhuwan University: Child labour situation in Nepal — Report from migration and employment survey, 1995/96 (Kathmandu, 1997).
Note 4 - Ibidem.
Note 5 - Ibidem.
Note 6 - These include five rapid assessments on five selected worst forms of child labour (children in bonded labour, child ragpickers, child porters, child domestic workers and child trafficking) that have been completed by the Central Department of Population Studies (CDPS) and the National Labour Academy (NLA), as well as earlier studies on children in mining and in the carpet sector.

Last update: 15 June 2009 ^ top