Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bhutan

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 22 September 2005
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bhutan, 22 September 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48c8ca46c.html [accessed 14 July 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 Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138N/A[487]

Ratified Convention 182N/A
ILO-IPEC Member 
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

The ILO estimated that 49.4 percent of children ages 10 to 14 years in Bhutan were working in 2002.[488] Children are found working in agriculture, particularly on family farms.[489] Foreign child workers are found in road construction.[490]

Primary education is free and compulsory.[491] In 1998, Bhutan had a gross primary enrollment rate of 71.9 percent.[492] While the primary school enrollment is increasing more rapidly for girls than boys,[493] the gross enrollment rate was still significantly higher for boys (82.1 percent) than girls (61.5 percent). The net primary enrollment rate was 52.9 percent in 1998, with 58.4 percent for boys and 47.2 percent for girls.[494] Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. Recent primary school attendance statistics are not available for Bhutan. In 2001, the completion rate for primary education was 60 percent for girls and 59 percent for boys.[495] As of 2000, 91.0 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.[496] The education system suffers from lack of teachers and classrooms.[497]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Regulation for Wage Rate, Recruitment Agencies and Workmen's Compensation Act (1994) prohibits the employment of children.[498] The minimum age for employment has been established at 18 years of age.[499] Children are permitted to enlist in the armed forces, however, at 15 years of age.[500] Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by Bhutanese law.[501] Trafficking in persons is not specifically prohibited.[502] The Ministry of Labor is responsible for investigating child labor violations.[503] The ministry conducts 10-15 inspections per week, most of which are in the construction sector.[504] In 2004 the National Assembly passed the Bhutan Penal Code 2004, which criminalized sex crimes and offenses against children.[505]

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

In August 2004, the National Assembly ratified the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Convention (SAARC) on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution.[506] The government is working with the UNDP to improve policies that address the needs of the country's poor and impoverished.[507] The Youth Development Fund established by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1998 provides assistance for new youth activities and programming.[508]

UNICEF is working with the government to improve the country's education system, with special emphasis on women, children, and disadvantaged students. Efforts are focused on improving primary, non-formal, and special education, as well as providing teacher training and essential school supplies.[509] The World Bank financed an education program with an emphasis on strengthening basic education in rural areas through June 2004. The Ministry of Health and Education implemented the project, which is designed to construct new schools, upgrade existing facilities, expand and improve teacher education, revise curriculum and examinations, and introduce decentralized school monitoring and evaluation through the training of central staff and head-teachers.[510] The World Bank is supporting another project to improve access to primary and secondary education, by financing the capital costs of schools, and improving the quality and relevance of education at all levels. The project is scheduled to run through 2009.[511] The ADB and the Government of Germany is financing a USD 12.5 million skills training project, targeting unemployed youth in rural areas, with an emphasis on women and economically disadvantaged. The Government of Bhutan's National Technical Training Authority serves as executing agency for the project, and the Government of Bhutan will contribute approximately USD 3 million to this project.[512]


[487] The Government of Bhutan is not a member of the ILO, and is thus unable to ratify ILO conventions.

[488] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2004 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2004.

[489] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2003: Bhutan, Washington, D.C., February 25, 2004, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27945.htm. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of State Parties due in 1992: Bhutan, CRC/C/3/Add.60, prepared by Government of Bhutan, pursuant to Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, October 1999, para. 32. See also U.S. Embassy-New Delhi, unclassified telegram no. 5903, September 17, 2004.

[490] U.S. Embassy-New Delhi, unclassified telegram no. 5903.

[491] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Bhutan, Section 5.

[492] UNESCO, Education For All: Year 2000 Assessment [CD-ROM], Paris, 2000.

[493] In 1998, 45 percent of the student population consisted of girls. See Royal Government of Bhutan, Bhutan National Human Development Report – 2000, The Planning Commission Secretariat, 2000; available from http://www.dop.gov.bt/rep/nhdr2000.pdf.

[494] UNESCO, Education for All.

[495] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Bhutan, Section 5. Primary education comprises seven years: preparatory, and grades one through six. Secondary school comprises grades seven through ten. See Royal Government of Bhutan, Bhutan National Human Development Report – 2000, 22.

[496] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2004. This percentage may hide the fact that many children promoted to grade five may combine school and work. In addition, little is known in regard to Bhutanese standards for promoting children through primary school.

[497] UNICEF, Committed Partner in Progress, [online] [cited May 20, 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org/bhutan/unicefbh.htm. See also UNICEF Australia, Perspectives on Development: Bhutanese Schools and How Can We Help?, [online] [cited May 20, 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org.au/whatWeDoPerspective3.asp. See also Royal Government of Bhutan, Bhutan National Human Development Report – 2000, 22.

[498] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of State Parties: Bhutan, para. 32.

[499] U.S. Embassy-New Delhi, unclassified telegram no. 5903.

[500] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Summary Record of the 715th Meeting: Bhutan, United Nations, Geneva, June 2001, para. 23.

[501] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Bhutan, Section 6c.

[502] Ibid., Section 6f.

[503] U.S. Embassy-New Delhi, unclassified telegram no. 5903.

[504] Ibid.

[505] Ibid.

[506] Ibid.

[507] UNDP, Developing Bhutan's poverty monitoring system, UNDP Bhutan, [online] October 2002 [cited May 21, 2004]; available from http://www.undp.org.bt/fact_sheets/povertyFS.PDF.

[508] Government of Bhutan, The Youth Development Fund, [online] 2004 [cited May 21, 2004]; available from http://www.youthdevfund.gov.bt/. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Bhutan. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Summary Record: Bhutan, para. 8. See also Kuensel Newspaper, "Sports: promoting wholesale education," (Thimpu), January 13, 2001; available from http://www.bootan.com/kuensel/20010113/sports.htm.

[509] UNICEF, Second Chance at Literacy, UNICEF in Bhutan, [online] [cited May 21, 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org/bhutan/educat.htm. In addition, the Education Department is launching an "inclusive education" program that will integrate students with disabilities into regular schools by renovating one school in each of the 20 school districts to provide basic facilities for disabled students and training for teachers. See UNICEF, Disabled Children Join Mainstream, UNICEF in Bhutan, [online] [cited May 21, 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org/bhutan/disable.htm.

[510] World Bank, Bhutan – Second Education Project, [online] May 20, 2004 [cited May 20, 2004]; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P009574.

[511] World Bank, Education Development Project, May 20, 2004 [cited May 20, 2004]; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P074114.

[512] ADB, Reforming Skills Training in Bhutan to Boost Growing Private Sector, ADB.org, [online] 2004 [cited October 25 2004]; available from http://www.adb.org/Documents/News/2001/pi2001064.asp. See also ADB, Reforming Skills Training in Bhutan To Boost Growing Private Sector, [online] 2001 [cited May 21, 2004]; available from http://www.adb.org/Documents/News/2001/nr2001064.asp.

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