Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Bangladesh

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 - Bangladesh, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
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, 2006:37,340,058
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 (%), 2004:102.9
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2004:88.9
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2007:76.9
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2003:65.1
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:3/12/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Most children in Bangladesh live in rural areas, and many begin to work at a very early age. Children are found working in road transport, such as rickshaw pulling, automotive repair, and minibus assistance. They are also found to be working in machine shops; salt, match, and battery factories; saw mills; and tanneries and are also involved in the manufacturing of bricks, cigarettes, dried fish, footwear, steel furniture, glass, textiles, garments, and soap. Children are engaged in the following hazardous activities: printing, welding, fabrication, stone breaking, dyeing operations, potter assistance, blacksmith assistance, fish farming, construction, and carpentry. While reports indicate that hazards exist in the shrimp industry, USDOS has stated that incidence of children working appears to have been significantly reduced in this sector. Other reports have indicated that large numbers of children work under hazardous conditions in the ship-breaking industry. According to a survey by the ILO, there are more than 421,000 children, mostly girls, working as domestic servants in private households, some in exploitive conditions. These child domestics are vulnerable to abuse, including sexual abuse. Children are also found working in the service industry, in hotels and restaurants.

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.

Boys and girls, often those living on the streets, are exploited in illicit activities, including smuggling and trading arms and drugs. As many as 10,000 children are exploited in the commercial sex industry; some are trafficked to India and Pakistan for sexual exploitation. 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.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

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

The Office of the Chief Inspectorate of the Department of Factories and Establishments under the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) is responsible for implementing and enforcing labor laws, including child labor provisions. The ministry has approximately 200 inspectors and related support staff. The inspectors work from 31 offices across the country and conduct from 3 to 17 monthly inspections, depending on the inspector's rank. In 2008, 39,123 labor inspections were conducted throughout Bangladesh, but only a few violations were filed involving child labor.

The law forbids forced labor and prohibits parents or guardians from pledging their children's work in exchange for a payment or benefit. It is illegal to sell, let to hire, procure, encourage, abet, or otherwise obtain possession of any person under 18 years of age for the purpose of prostitution or to maintain a brothel for these purposes. These offenses are punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years. 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. The law also provides for the extradition to Bangladesh of traffickers who have fled to other countries. 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. The minimum age for voluntary military service is 16 years, and there is no forced conscription in Bangladesh.

The Government maintained an anti-trafficking police unit in each of Bangladesh's 64 districts and provides trafficking-in-persons training to members of the National Police Academy and other public officials. From April 2008 to February 2009, 166 traffickers were arrested in Bangladesh, and 18 were convicted. Although the Government continues its efforts to prevent public official complicity in trafficking crimes, high levels of corruption remain an obstacle to combating trafficking.

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

The Government of Bangladesh, under MOLE, supports a national program entitled the "Eradication of Hazardous Child Labor in Bangladesh." It is being implemented by NGOs and targets 21 sectors in which children work. The goal is to enable working children to leave hazardous occupations by providing them with additional skills. 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.

The Third National Plan of Action for Children (2005-2009) 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. In 2008, MOLE established a Child Labor Unit to oversee the implementation of child labor programs across the country. The Government also includes a child labor component in its compulsory training program for entry-level diplomatic personnel and border guards. The Government's 2009 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) includes as a strategic goal the protection of child laborers and the elimination of the worst forms of child labor. The 3-year PRSP seeks to accomplish this through raising awareness of child labor, drafting minimum wage and other protective standards, creating a child-friendly code of conduct for employers, and improving education opportunities for working children.

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. In 2008, MOHA established a special "Trafficking in Human Beings Investigation Unit," comprising 12 police officers. These officers were given trafficking-related training. At the same time, the Ministry of Religious Affairs conducted training on trafficking issues to more than 235,000 religious teachers.

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. 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. The Government also supports six shelters for women and child trafficking victims.

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 education centers to provide non-formal education and livelihood skills to working children and adolescents. The Government is also participating in a USD 21.8 million Netherlands-funded project implemented by ILO-IPEC, which began in April 2006. The project will run through December 2011 and aims to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the informal economy in Dhaka. The Government is also participating in a 5-year USDOL-funded USD 700,000 ILO-IPEC project to conduct data collection on child labor. The Ministry of Social Welfare operates programs, including training and development centers, for street children and other vulnerable minors.

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