Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bhutan

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 - Bhutan, 27 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48caa45f37.html [accessed 19 April 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 Labor350
Working children, 10-14 years (%), 2003:19.6
Working boys, 10-14 years (%), 2003:16.1
Working girls, 10-14 years (%), 2003:22.7
Working children by sector, 10-14 years (%), 2003:
     – Agriculture92.2
     – Manufacturing0.1
     – Services1.9
     – Other5.9
Minimum age for work:18
Compulsory education age:17
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:97
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:74
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2003:69
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2000:91
ILO-IPEC participating country:No

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Bhutan work in agriculture, primarily on family farms, and in shops after school and on weekends.351 Migrant children as young as 11 years are found working in road construction.352 Children also work in automobile shops, as doma sellers, street vendors, domestic workers, and in restaurants.353 According to UNICEF, they are also involved in commercial sexual exploitation.354

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law states that the minimum age for employment is 18 years. However, children between 13 and 17 years are allowed to perform certain forms of light work.355 Bhutanese law requires employers to maintain a register of all child employees, describing the hours and nature of work undertaken.356 According to Bhutanese law, the penalty for infringing child labor laws is five to nine years of imprisonment.357 The law states that it is a crime to subject a child to economic exploitation or any work that is likely to be hazardous.358 The 2007 Labor and Employment Act prohibits the worst forms of child labor and defines them to include trafficking, forced or compulsory labor, children in armed conflict, sexual exploitation, work in illicit activities, and work in particularly difficult conditions or which could be harmful to the health, safety, or morals of a child.359 The Ministry of Labor reportedly conducts 10 to 15 inspections per week, most of which are in the construction sector.360 Forced labor is prohibited by Bhutanese law.361 Bhutanese law also criminalizes sex crimes and offenses against children.362 According to the law, child trafficking has a minimum penalty of three years.363 Trafficking a child for prostitution is a felony with penalties varying according to the age of the child.364 Children are permitted to enlist in the Armed Forces at 18 years.365

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

The judiciary has started a campaign in schools to promote awareness of the penal code among children and youth called, "Know Your Law to Protect Your Rights."366


350 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 Government of Bhutan, Rules and Regulations on Employment of Bhutanese Nationals in the Private Sector, (1997). See also Government of Bhutan, Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007, (2007), article 170; available from http://www.molhr.gov.bt/labouract.pdf. See also International Association of Universities, Bhutan – Education System, accessed March 19, 2008 available from http://www.unesco.org/iau/onlinedatabases/index.html. See also U.S. Department of State, "Bhutan," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007, Washington, DC, March 11, 2008, section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100613.htm.

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

352 U.S. Embassy – New Delhi, reporting September 17, 2004.

353 UNICEF, A Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Bhutan, National Commission for Women and Children, Thimphu, 2006, 69; available from http://www.ncwcbhutan.org/ncwc/publications/SITAN_Bhutan2006.pdf. See also UNICEF, Report on Assessment of Protection Factors of Children in Bhutan, Ministry of Health, Thimphu, 2004, 65. See also UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Second Periodic Reports of States Parties due in 1997: Bhutan, March 21, 2007, section 406; available from http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/430/93/PDF/G0743093.pdf?OpenElement.

354 UNICEF, Report of Assessment of Protection, 65.

355 Government of Bhutan, Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007, articles 170, 171. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bhutan," section 6d. See also US Embassy Delhi, E-mail communication USDOL official, March 10, 2007.

356 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Second Periodic Reports of States Parties due in 1997: Bhutan, section 408.

357 Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, Offences and Penal Provisions under the Labour and Employment Act 2007, 2007; available from http://www.molhr.gov.bt/penalcode.htm.

358 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Second Periodic Reports of States Parties due in 1997: Bhutan, section 395.

359 Government of Bhutan, Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007, article 9.

360 U.S. Embassy – New Delhi, reporting September 17, 2004.

361 Government of Bhutan, Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007, article 6. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Bhutan," section 6c.

362 U.S. Embassy – New Delhi, reporting September 17, 2004.

363 Government of Bhutan, Penal Code of Bhutan, (August 11, 2004), par. 3(a), sections 228, 230.

364 Ibid., para 380.

365 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Bhutan," in Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document/get?id=846.

366 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Second Periodic Reports of States Parties due in 1997: Bhutan, section 31.

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