Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 06:23 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Nepal

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 - Nepal, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
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, 5-14 years, 1999:4,989,490
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 1999:39.6
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 1999:35.4
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 1999:44.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 1999:
     – Agriculture87.1
     – Manufacturing1.3
     – Services11.0
     – Other0.5
Minimum age for work:14
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:126.3
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:76.1
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 1999:69.2
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:78.5
ILO Convention 138:5/30/1997
ILO Convention 182:1/3/2002
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Nepal work in agriculture, embroidered textiles, the entertainment sector, and the transportation sector. Children also work as domestic servants, porters, rag pickers, and rock breakers, as well in carpet factories, mines, brick factories, and restaurants. Depending on the specific sector, children work long hours; carry heavy loads; have ear, eye, and skin disorders; have musculoskeletal problems; and are at risk of sexual exploitation. The majority of working children are active in the informal sector.

There are two kinds of child bonded laborers in Nepal: Kamaiyas, who are born into a family legacy of bonded labor, though this practice was outlawed in 2002, and other bonded child laborers, who commonly come from large, landless families. Bonded child laborers may work in the following sectors: carpet-weaving, domestic service, brick manufacturing, and embroidery of textiles. Children may also work under conditions of bondage in agriculture, stone quarries, and restaurants. Bonded child laborers are also found in commercial sexual exploitation.

Children in Nepal are exploited through sex tourism, and trafficking. Reports indicate many children are trafficked to India to work in carpet factories, circuses, agriculture, road construction, domestic service, and begging. Boys are also trafficked to India to work in the embroidery industry. Nepal is also a source country for children trafficked to India and the Middle East for commercial sexual exploitation. Internal trafficking occurs for commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude as child soldiers, domestic servants, circus entertainers, or factory workers.

Despite a peace agreement, reports indicate that the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist continues to hold more than 3,000 children in cantonments (combat quarters). These children had been recruited, often forcibly, to serve in combat and in various battlefield support functions. It has also been reported that armed groups in the Terai area have recruited children to serve in combat.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years. The law prohibits children less than 16 years from employment in tourism, factories, carpet weaving, mining, factory work, or other hazardous work harmful to their health or wellbeing. Children can work up to 6 hours a day and 36 hours a week, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The law sets a monthly minimum wage for children 14 to 16 years. The law imposes a punishment of up to 3 months in prison for employing an underage child. Employing children in dangerous work or against their will is punishable by imprisonment for up to 1 year. The law allows fines to be levied against employers who are found in violation of labor laws.

The minimum age for voluntary military service is 18 years. The Interim Constitution states that no minor shall be employed in any hazardous work and shall not be used in the army, police, or in conflicts. The 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord prohibits child labor and the sexual exploitation of children. The Kamaiya system, a form of bonded labor, was formally outlawed in 2002; the law forbids keeping or employing any person as a bonded laborer and cancels any unpaid loans or bonds between creditors and Kamaiya laborers. The law prohibits children from involvement in the sale, distribution, or trafficking of alcohol and drugs. The law prohibits trafficking in persons and provides for up to 20 years of imprisonment for violations. The law also prohibits the use of children in immoral activities, including taking and distributing pornographic photographs.

The Ministry of Labor and Transport Management (MoLTM) is responsible for enforcing child labor legislation and issues. USDOS reports that despite legal protections, resources devoted to enforcement of child labor laws are limited – the Ministry of Labor employed 13 labor inspectors in 2008. A large amount of child labor occurs in sectors that are not covered by labor laws.

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

MoLTM's national Master Plan on Child Labor, 2004-2014, calls for eliminating the worst forms of child labor by 2009 and all forms of child labor by 2014. Although this goal has not been met, the plan continues to be implemented. In 2008, the Government committed funds to combat child labor in the Kathmandu Valley through the launch of a public awareness campaign on child labor and through the provision of daycare centers for children under 14 years, to dissuade children from accompanying their parents to work.

The Government continues to take action in order to rescue and rehabilitate freed Kamaiya bonded laborers through the provision of land, home construction materials, and livelihood training. In 2008, the Government rehabilitated 2,658 former Kamaiyas. The Government also continues to participate in the second phase of a USDOL-funded USD 2 million a project to assist former child bonded laborers and their families, which concludes in September 2010. The ILO-IPEC implemented project aims to withdraw 3,000 children and prevent 6,600 children from exploitive labor.

The Government has a National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking. Forty-one women's police cells, in conjunction with NGOs, helped provide referral services to trafficking victims. NGOs have also received limited funding to provide rehabilitation, medical care, and legal services to trafficking victims. The Government provided financial assistance to raise awareness on trafficking in persons in 26 high-risk districts.

The Government is currently implementing its Education for All National Plan of Action, which aims to expand education access, provide alternative schooling, and provide non-formal education alternatives. Child laborers are one of the target groups identified in the plan.

The Government is also participating in a 5-year USD 3.85 million Brighter Futures program funded by USDOL scheduled to run through September 2009. This project is implemented by World Education and its local partner organizations and provides technical assistance on government policies related to child labor. It aims to withdraw 15,400 children and prevent 15,200 children from exploitive labor, including children formerly associated with armed groups and armed forces.

The Government is also participating in several USAID-funded programs in Nepal to reduce the vulnerability of children to exploitive labor. These include scholarship programs for girls from disadvantaged and conflict-affected families; vocational training for youth and displaced and disadvantaged persons; and an anti-trafficking program targeted at girls exploited by, and at risk of, being trafficked. In addition, the Government participated in an additional ILO-IPECimplemented project to prevent and eliminate child labor in Nepal, which ended in December 2008.

Search Refworld