Last Updated: Friday, 09 October 2015, 14:14 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bhutan

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bhutan, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 10 October 2015]
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 Labor
Population, children, 10-14 years, 2003:73,671
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:16
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:101.6
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:79.0
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2003:69.0
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:93.2
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:No
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 during holidays. Migrant children as young as 11 years are found working in road construction. Children also work in automobile shops, restaurants, and as doma sellers (a nut that's eaten with lime to produce a narcotic effect), street vendors, and domestic servants. According to UNICEF, they are also involved in commercial sexual exploitation.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

By law the minimum age for employment is 18 years. However, children between 13 and 17 years are allowed to perform certain forms of light work. Bhutanese law requires employers to maintain a register of all child employees, describing the hours and nature of work undertaken. The law prohibits children from working in the worst forms of child labor and defines these as 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. The law imposes a penalty for refusing to comply with child labor laws of 5 to 9 years of imprisonment. USDOS reports that the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources sporadically enforces child labor laws.

Bhutanese law prohibits forced labor and criminalizes trafficking, sex crimes, and offenses against children. According to the law, child trafficking has a minimum penalty of 3 years. Trafficking a child for prostitution is a felony with penalties varying according to the age of the child. The minimum age to enlist in the Armed Forces is 18 years.

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

The Royal Bhutan Police has started to educate children on their rights and other child protection issues through a series of school visits. The National Commission for Women and Children, in partnership with UNICEF, conducted additional child rights training for clergy and leaders of monastic institutions.

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