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Urban child labour in Bangladesh: Some Issues

Urban child labour in Bangladesh: Some Issues

Bashira Mannan*
Md. Nurul Islam*

Child labour is a worldwide socioeconomic problem and it is divided into two main areas, i.e. rural and urban. It is estimated that near about 400 million children are involved in the working field throughout the world, and 90% of them are found in the developing countries. Child labour in Bangladesh, is widespread and increasing at a faster rate. According to a Bangladesh Government. Labour Force Survey, in 1988, of the 31 million children aged 5-14 of which 6.1 million were labour, and 1.9 million aged 5 to 9 also constituted 12 % of the total labour force.1 Another estimate puts the number at 15 million.2  In a developing country like Bangladesh , the urban Child labour is increasing fastly. In spite of this, the number of child labour in rural areas in great deal higher than that of urban areas. According to the ILO Report (1996), 9 in every 10 of the total Child labour are in rural areas of which most of them are involved in agro-sector.

 In the urban areas most of the child labour are in industrial and service sectors, such as, transport, commerce, domestic service, garment industry and many other informal sectors. In the urban areas, the child labour works throughout the whole day and it is continued till midnight. In exchange of labour, the child labour does not get sufficient wages, they have to work only for livelihood being the member of poorest class of the society. So, one of the main causes of child labour is poverty. Extreme poverty in many families forces parents to put their children to work instead of sending them to school.3 The govt. or the parents or the guardians cannot fulfilled children’s  basic need, cannot help them admitted in the school towards making a good human fund. Attesting this view, most of the studies indicate that the economic pressure is the important feature which forces the children to earn by working inside the home.4 In the context of this situations, the child labour of the developing countries, such as Bangladesh continues to be increased.

It is observed that the increase child labour in Bangladesh has been alarming in the recent years due to poverty. The working conditions of the child labourer in all sectors are so much painful having insufficient facilities and they do not to be organized for their rights as workers. The child labour in various sectors is subject to physical and sexual abuse by the employers. Most of them work at unskilled jobs and do not attend school; it is the violation of international Conventions as to the employment of the children.

The present paper is an attempt to make an overview of the situation of urban child labour in Bangladesh and to make some recommendations to overcome the problem. Three major points have been discussed in this paper; 1. Concept of child labour, 2. situation of child labour in Bangladesh, 3. Related problems to child labour.

Concept of child labour:
The concept of child labour is used to broad sense. It suggests something which is hateful and exploitative. On the other hand the sense of child labour is co-extensive with any work done by a child for gain. The United States National Child Labour Committee, defined child labour as, ------- any work by children that interfaces with their full physical development, their opportunities for a desirable minimum of education or their needed recreation.5 V. V. Giri. Distinguishes the concept of child labour in two senses.6 First. child labour as economic practice and second. as a  social evil. In the first context, it signifies employment of children in gainful occupations with a view to adding to income of the family. In the second context, child labour is at present widely used. In the assessing the natural and extent of child labour as social evil, it is necessary to take into  account the character of the jobs in which children are engaged, the draggers to which they are exposed and the opportunities they are denied. So, child labour viewed from both the angles means employment of children in occupation gainful of not which may be harmful to their heath, may be denied of the opportunities under law. The concept of child labour, therefore, applies to children working in industry and working in non industrial sectors that also restrict their physical, mental, moral and social development.

The term child labour is defined by the United States Development of Labour as the employment of boys and girls when they are too young to work for higher, or when they are employed at jobs unsuitable or unsafe for children for their eyes or under conditions injuries to their welfare.7 It is an employment that robs children of their rightful heritage of a chance for healthy development, educational opportunities and necessary playtime. The Encyclopedia of Britannica also defined child labour as employment of children under specific legal age.8 child labour is usually defined as participation in gainful activity by children between the ages of 5 to 18 years. Gender and industrial structure are expected to effect child labour participation rate most sharply. To assess the dimensions of the problem, therefore, it is useful to differentiate between rural and urban areas and between males and females.

Children of the age of 18 years involving work places are called the child labour though the ILO convention, 1973 states that the completion of the 14 year is the minimum requirement in the least developed countries.10 So, the meaning of the court of child labour is, it may be said, using children’s labour in income generating production sectors directly or in nonproductive activities such as household maintenance.

Urban child labour and related problems:
The increasing trends of child labour in Bangladesh is mostly due to many other causes and it has evil effect on the physical, intellectual and development of the children in particular and on the advancement of the society in general. The child labourers make an important contribution to the income of their respective families. But the negative consequence are that the children are being deprived of education, proper care and skill training and other opportunities for being developed as capable citizens. As a result, the country will not formate human power in future. It is, therefore, missue of our national labourforce. Besides, the child labour greatly influence the labour force to remain bellow wage, unskilled and low production. Infact, the child labour is a great obstacle to economic advancement of the country at present and in future.

It has been observed that hard labour and exploitation of child labour may cause undesirable mental change which leads to behavioral problem. As a result they become antisocial, revengeful, destructive and disobedient. The tremendous working pressure put on them at an early age tends  to abandon his childhood and create an unnatural situation for the child which disturb their mind. The children’s  work places are sometimes not congenial for their physical growth and development. They are not only exploited against their age, working hours or wages but also subject to work under very unhygienic conditions which ultimately affect their mental and physical health.26 sometimes they are maltreated, denied of rights and needs by the employer. In many cases the child labour feels risk and insecurity in the working environment they are forced to grow up indust. heat, smoke, in hailing suffocations, detrimental to a healthy, physical, and psychosocial development. Working in a un favourable and unlikely situation cause bronchitis, tuberculosis and various forms of skin diseases, malnutrition of the maximum child labour and those are causes for, anaemia, calcium deficiency and physical wickness.

The child labours are deprived of educational opportunity or school drop out or before the completion of primary education. Today, the literacy rate in our country is only 37% of the toatal population(Acoording to the Human Index Report, 1995). The lose of education will give a painful picture if conditions of child labours are carefully analyzed. They will remain illiterate in future having a serious adverse  effect on our human resource development. Besides the guardians have no control on the life of child labours that is why they spend their earnings in improper ways. Some research findings show that most of the child labours are gurdianless and shelter less. So, they are the victims of immoral activities. In this connection, Adams and Summer urge that child labour is one of the most prominent causes of poverty, pauperism, vice and crime in the adult years, and infact, a grave menance to the peace and prosperity of the social order.27 child workers are themselves a social problem; they also face many other social problems and sometimes entangled with obnoxious activities knowingly or unknowingly. It has been evident that many of them are habituated in drugs, smoking and involved in anti-social activities. 

Volume 10. Number 1. December 1995

Institute of social Welfare and Resarch
University of Dhahka, Dhaka-1205

Bangladesh Bureau of statistics, Report on Labour Force Survey, 1989,April 1992, P.XIII
ICFTU/ APRO, Sub-Regional seminars on child labour ( international Confederation of free Trade unions/ Asian and Pacific Regional Organization, October, 1993) chart 1, Country reports in a Nutshell.
Khaleda Salauddin

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