Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2014, 17:47 GMT

2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bangladesh

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 27 August 2008
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bangladesh, 27 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48caa45d38.html [accessed 1 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor219
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2006:13.6
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2006:21.3
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2006:5.6
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:10
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2004:103
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2004:89
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2007:76.9
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2003:65
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Most working children in Bangladesh live in rural areas, and many begin to work at a very early age.220 Children are found working in the following activities, sometimes under hazardous conditions: auto repair; battery recharging and recycling; road transport, such as rickshaw-pulling and fare-collecting; saw milling; welding; metalworking; carpentry; fish drying; fish farming; leather tanning; construction; and garment manufacturing.221 According to a survey by the ILO, there are over 421,000 children, mostly girls, working as domestic servants in private households, some in exploitive conditions.222 These child domestics are vulnerable to abuse, including sexual abuse.223

According to a Government of Bangladesh survey, street children, mostly boys, can be found in urban areas engaging in various forms of work such as begging, portering, shining shoes, collecting paper, and selling flowers and other items.224

Boys and girls, often those living on the streets, are exploited in illicit activities including smuggling and trading arms and drugs.225 Large numbers of children are exploited in the commercial sex industry.226 Trafficking of children for prostitution, domestic service, and other purposes is a significant problem in Bangladesh; some parents send their children willingly into trafficking situations in hopes that the children will escape poverty.227 Bangladeshi children, especially boys, continue to be trafficked into debt bondage in Gulf countries. Boys have also been trafficked for camel jockeying.228

In the aftermath of the November 2007 natural disaster, over 4,000 primary schools have been closed.229 Although the direct effect of this disaster on child labor remains unknown, a Save the Children report indicates that it may push children into exploitive work.230

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law states that no child under the age of 14 years shall be allowed to work in any profession or establishment. Children 14 to 18 years are considered young people and there are restrictions on the types of jobs and hours they can work.231 Young people working in factories may not use certain dangerous machines without adequate training and supervision, they also may not perform certain tasks while machinery is moving, and the law allows for the Government to publish lists of jobs that they are not allowed to perform.232 No young person is allowed to work in a factory or a mine for more than 5 hours a day and 30 hours a week. In all other types of establishments, young people may not work more than 7 hours a day and 42 hours a week. Additionally, young people are not allowed to work between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.233 The law provides an exception for children age 12 to 13 to participate in light work that does not interfere with school and does not endanger their health or development.234

The Office of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Establishments under the Ministry of Labor and Employment is responsible for implementation and enforcement of labor laws, including child labor provisions. According to USDOS, the Chief Inspector does not have adequate resources to enforce labor law compliance throughout the country.235 The ministry has approximately 150 inspectors and related support staff.236 Generally, child labor violations are remedied with a verbal warning.237 Although the vast majority of child labor occurs in the agriculture and informal sectors, officials inspect only formal sector workplaces and focus primarily on the ready-made garment industry.238

The law forbids forced labor and prohibits parents or guardians from pledging their children's labor in exchange for a payment or benefit.239 It is illegal to sell, let to hire, hire procure, encourage, abet, or otherwise obtain possession of any person under 18 for the purpose of prostitution or to maintain a brothel for these purposes. These offenses are punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years.240 Child trafficking, which includes importing, exporting, buying, selling, or taking into possession any child for immoral or unlawful purposes, is illegal and punishable by life imprisonment or death.241 The law also provides for traffickers who have fled to other countries to be extradited to Bangladesh for trial.242 It is illegal to instigate any person, including a child, to produce or deal in narcotic drugs; this crime is punishable by 3 to 15 years of imprisonment.243 The minimum age for voluntary military service is 18 years, and there is no forced conscription in Bangladesh.244

During the reporting period, the Government has strengthened its efforts to combat trafficking by expanding anti-trafficking units within the police force to every district of the country and providing trafficking in persons training to members of the National Police Academy and other public officials.245 The Government has also continued its efforts to investigate and prosecute public officials complicit in trafficking crimes.246

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government of Bangladesh under the Ministry of Labor and Employment has funded a national program titled the Eradication of Hazardous Child Labor in Bangladesh.247 It is being implemented by NGOs and targets 21 sectors in which child labor occurs. The goal is to provide working children additional skills to allow them to transition out of hazardous occupations. The program, set to expire in June 2009, is currently in its second phase, and the Government has allocated USD 4.2 million for 3 years.248

The Third National Plan of Action for Children (2005-2010) commits the government to carry out a variety of tasks to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, with a particular focus on child domestic workers, migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable groups. The commitments include introducing regulations, ensuring working children's access to education, and strengthening the labor inspectorate.249 The Ministry of Labor and Employment has a dedicated Child Labor Cell, and the Government includes a child labor component in its compulsory training program for entry-level diplomatic personnel and border guards.250 The Government's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper includes as a strategic goal taking immediate and effective measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, with a target of increasing the knowledge base about child labor and children's rights, and a future priority of legal reform to bring all child labor legislation in line with international standards.251

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) is the lead agency on anti-trafficking issues; it chairs an inter-ministerial committee that oversees the country's National Anti-Trafficking Strategic Plan for Action.252 In March 2007, MOHA published its annual report on Combating Trafficking in Women and Children.253 The Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs is currently implementing its National Plan of Action Against the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Including Trafficking.254 The plan calls for legal reforms; improved mechanisms for reporting child abuse; greater access to safe spaces and support services for victims and children at risk; and coordinated approaches to monitoring and law enforcement, among other efforts.255

The Government works closely with IOM and other NGOs on their efforts to combat child trafficking through prevention, awareness-raising, rescue, rehabilitation, law enforcement training, research, advocacy, and cross-border collaboration.256 The Ministry of Social Welfare operates programs, including training and development centers, for street children and other vulnerable minors.257 In collaboration with NGOs and in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, the Government operates a coordinated mechanism to monitor the repatriation, rehabilitation, and social reintegration of child camel jockeys who have been trafficked.258 The Government has also implemented procedures that have increased the scrutiny given to the passport applications of children traveling without their parents.259

During the reporting period, the Government has been implementing the Bangladesh Labour Welfare Foundation 2006 in an effort to ensure the protection of child workers in both the formal and informal sectors.260 UNICEF is collaborating closely with the Government to implement the second phase of the Basic Education for Hard-to-Reach Urban Working Children project, which will continue through 2011. The project is setting up 8,000 education centers to provide non-formal education and livelihood skills to 200,000 working children and adolescents.261 A Netherlands-funded project implemented by ILO-IPEC began in April 2006. The project will run through December 2011 and aims at preventing and eliminating the worst forms of child labor in the informal economy in Dhaka.262


219 For statistical data not cited here, see the Data Sources and Definitions section. For data on ratifications and ILO-IPEC membership, see the Executive Summary. For minimum age for admission to work, age to which education is compulsory, and free public education, see U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, December 19, 2007. See also UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Ending Age of Compulsory Education, accessed March 18, 2008; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/. See also U.S. Department of State, "Bangladesh," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007, Washington, DC, March 11, 2008, section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100612.htm. See also EFA UNESCO, EFA Global Monitoring Report 2008, 2007; available from http://www.unesco.org/education/gmr2008/press/Full-report.pdf.

220 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 6d. See also Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Report on National Child Labour Survey 2002-03, Dhaka, December 2003; available from http://www.ilo.org/iloroot/docstore/ipec/prod/eng/2003_bd_report_en.pdf.

221 Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Baseline Survey on Working Children in Automobile Establishments, Dhaka, November 2003; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/newdelhi/ipec/download/resources/bangladesh/bgdpubl03eng7.pdf. See also Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Baseline Survey on Child Workers in Battery Recharging/Recycling Sector, 2002-03, Dhaka, February 2004; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/newdelhi/ipec/download/resources/bangladesh/bgdpubl04eng1.pdf. See also Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Report of the Baseline Survey on Child Workers in Road Transport Sector, Dhaka, March 2004; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/newdelhi/ipec/download/resources/bangladesh/bgdpubl04eng2.pdf. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," sections 5, 6c, and 6d. See also Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, National Child Labour Survey 2002-03, 191.

222 ILO Labour Office – Dhaka, Baseline Survey on Child Domestic Labour (CDL) in Bangladesh, December 2006; available from http://www.ilo.org/ipecinfo/product/viewProduct.do?productId=4647. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 6c. See also UNICEF, Basic Education for Hard-to-Reach Urban Working Children, [online] [cited December 14, 2007]; available from http://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/Education_for_Working_Children_(BEHTRUWC).pdf.

223 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 5, 6c. See also ILO Committee of Experts, Direct Request, Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Bangladesh (ratification: 2001), [online] 2005 [cited December 14, 2007]; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/cgi-lex/pdconv.pl?host=status01&textbase=iloeng&document=8259&chapter=6&query=%28Bangladesh%29+%40ref &highlight=&querytype=bool&context=0.

224 Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Baseline Survey of Street Children in Bangladesh, Dhaka, December 7, 2003, ix-x; available from http://www.ilo.org/iloroot/docstore/ipec/prod/eng/2003_streetchildren_bangladesh.pdf.

225 Ibid., x. See also Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Child Soldiers: CRC Country Briefs," (February 1, 2003); available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=731. See also ECPAT International, South Asia Regional Consultation on Prostitution of Boys, press release, Dhaka, June 8-9, 2006.

226 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 5.

227 Ibid. See also U.S. Department of State, "Bangladesh (Tier 2 Watch List)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007, Washington, DC, June 23, 2007; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/.

228 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, March 1, 2007. See also U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, March 4, 2008.

229 Integrated Regional Information Networks, "Bangladesh: Over 4,000 primary schools closed by floods", IRINnews.org, [online], August 21, 2007 [cited May 6, 2008]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=73833.

230 Save the Children UK, "After the cyclone – Shahana's story from Bangladesh", savethechildren.org.uk, [online], December 3, 2007 [cited May 6, 2008]; available from http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/41_3988.htm.

231 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, December 19, 2007.

232 Government of Bangladesh, Labour Code, 2006 (June 2, 2006).

233 Ibid.

234 Ibid.

235 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, December 19, 2007.

236 Ibid.

237 Ibid.

238 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 6d.

239 Government of Bangladesh, Labour Code, 2006. See also Government of Bangladesh, Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh (as modified up to 17 May, 2004), (November 4, 1972); available from http://www.pmo.gov.bd/constitution/contents.htm.

240 Salma Ali, Report on Laws and Legal Procedures Concerning the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Bangladesh, Bangkok, October 2004, 15, 17, 46; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/promoting_law/bangladesh_report/Laws_Legal_Procedures_Banglad esh_Oct2004.pdf. See also Government of Bangladesh, Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, Act No. VI, (1933), articles 9-12.

241 Government of Bangladesh, Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act, Act. No. VIII, (2000), article 6. See also Salma Ali, Laws on CSEC in Bangladesh, 16, 20.

242 Salma Ali, Laws on CSEC in Bangladesh, 25.

243 Government of Bangladesh, The Narcotics Control Act, No. XX, (1990).

244 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook: Bangladesh, [online] December 13, 2007 [cited December 14, 2007]; available from https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/fields/2024.html. See also Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "CRC Country Briefs."

245 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, March 4, 2008. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 5.

246 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, March 4, 2008. See also U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007: Bangladesh."

247 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, December 19, 2007. See also Government of Bangladesh, Written Communication, submitted in response to U.S. Department of Labor Federal Register Notice (November 8, 2007) "Request for Information on Efforts by Certain Countries to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor", Dhaka, December 5, 2007.

248 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, December 19, 2007.

249 Ibid. See also Government of Bangladesh, National Plan of Action for Children: Bangladesh, Dhaka, June 22, 2005, 38, 79-80; available from http://www.lcgbangladesh.org/Education/reports/NPA%20Master%20Clean%20Final%2022%20June%202005.pdf.

250 ILO-IPEC, Preventing and Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Selected Formal and Informal Sectors in Bangladesh, final technical progress report, Geneva, May 15, 2006, 2.

251 Government of Bangladesh, Unlocking the Potential: National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction, Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, Dhaka, October 16, 2005, 323; available from http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2005/cr05410.pdf.

252 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, March 2, 2006.

253 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, March 4, 2008.

254 Government of Bangladesh, Written communication, submitted in response to U.S. Department of Labor Federal Register Notice (July 29, 2005) "Request for Information on Efforts by Certain Countries to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor", Washington, DC, September 12, 2005.

255 United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA Global Population Policy Update, [online] March 16, 2004 [cited December 18, 2007]; available from http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters/issue17.htm, UNFPA, UNFPA Global Population Policy Update, [online] March 16, 2004 [cited December 18, 2007]; available from http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters/issue17.htm.

256 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, March 1, 2007. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 5.

257 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 12(1) of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Children on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography: Initial Reports of States Parties, Geneva, December 23, 2005; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CRC.C.OPSC.BGD.1.En?OpenDocument.

258 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bangladesh," section 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, December 19, 2007.

259 U.S. Embassy – Dhaka, reporting, December 19, 2007.

260 Government of Bangladesh, Written Communication, submitted in response to U.S. Department of Labor Federal Register Notice.

261 UNICEF, Basic Education for Hard-to-Reach Urban Working Children. 262 ILO-IPEC official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, December 6, 2007.

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