Rights activists at a function urged the government to end all forms of child labour from both formal and informal sectors for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 8.7.
Underscoring the need for the latest and reliable data to this effect, they recommended amending the labour law and enforce it strictly to safeguard the country’s child rights.
Their call and recommendation came at a virtual press conference titled ‘Child Labour Situation in Bangladesh’ on Tuesday.
Bangladesh Shishu Odhikar Forum (BSAF), a network of 269 NGOs working for child rights, in association with the International Labour Organization (ILO) arranged the programme to highlight 2021 as the year for child labour elimination.
Abdus Sahid Mahmood, director of BSAF, presented a keynote paper in the programme.
Md Mujibul Haque, chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee of Ministry of Labour and Employment, was present as the chief guest, while Syeda Munira Sultana, National Project Coordinator of ILO Bangladesh, attended the function as the special guest.
While presenting the keynote paper, Mr Mahmood said legal protection is required for a large number of child labourers involved in domestic work.
“ILO Convention 138 needs to be signed where the minimum age for employment is mentioned”, he said.
Mr Mahmood also called upon the government to approve the draft of the National Plan of Action (NPA) soon to end child labour from the country by 2025.
Replying to a query, Mr Haque said the Ministry of Labour and Employment is not sincere enough to implement its Tk 2.84 billion (284 crores) project to lift 100,000 children out of hazardous forms of labour.
Earlier in 2018, the government took the mentioned project to keep the children out of hazardous forms of labour by 2020, he said.
Expressing disappointment, he said non-governmental organisations (NGOs) ought to be implementing the project under the government’s supervision.
However, even after two years, the ministry has not been able to select the NGOs, the former state minister for Labour and Employment said.
Mr Haque also emphasised coordination among the different ministries working on the child rights issues.
Ms Syeda Munira Sultana said the number of children working in the labour market may increase due to a fall in people's income in the pandemic.
Citing the ILO data, she said the number of child labourers worldwide now stands at 152 million while it’s 62 million in the Asia-Pacific region.
Both the government and the private sector should work together in this respect, Ms Sultana added.