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Eradicating child labour from Bangladesh

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Along with the rest of the world, Bangladesh also observed  the World Day Against Child Labour on June 12. This year also marks the 25th?anniversary of the adoption of ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999), which, in 2020, was the first ILO Convention to be universally ratified.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) itself admits that while much progress has been made in reducing child labour over the years, recent years have seen global trends reverse, and, 'now more than ever it is important to join forces to accelerate action towards ending child labour in all its forms'.   

Unfortunately, in Bangladesh and in some other countries the number of child workers is growing and the number rose by 86 thousand in the last seven years.

According to the survey of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics conducted in 2022, the number of child workers in the country was 3,450,369 in 2013, but it went up to 3,536,927 in 2022.

For a country on the way to graduation from the status of the Least Developed Country, this number of child workers is unacceptable. The scenario looks graver when one takes into account the fact that out of the total child workers, over 1070,000 children are engaged in work, which poses risks to their health and lives.

In the last two decades the government has taken projects to combat the scourge of child labour. Projects were also taken to prevent children from engaging in risky jobs. But it seems that the projects are not yielding expected benefit.

As law dictates, appointing children in workplaces is a punishable offence.

Labour ministry has prepared a list containing 43 types of jobs which are identified 'risky' for children but the BBS survey shows that children are still engaged in all these 43 jobs.

While Bangladesh has made significant strides in economic growth and poverty reduction, child labour remains a persistent problem that undermines the nation's future prospects. This complex issue demands a nuanced understanding and a multi-pronged approach to eradicate it effectively.

The prevalence of child labour in Bangladesh is deeply rooted in socio-economic disparities. Poverty is the primary driver, as impoverished families often have no choice but to send their children to work. In many cases, these children are employed in informal sectors such as agriculture, domestic work, and small-scale industries, where labour regulations are weak or non-existent. The need for additional household income outweighs the benefits of education, leading to high dropout rates from schools. This cycle of poverty and lack of education perpetuates child labour, hindering the country's overall progress.

Another critical factor contributing to child labor is the cultural acceptance of child work as a norm in many communities. In rural areas, children are often seen as an economic asset, expected to contribute to the family's income from a young age. This cultural perspective makes it challenging to implement and enforce child labour laws effectively. Additionally, the informal nature of many child labour sectors means that these practices are often hidden from regulatory oversight.

To eradicate child labour in Bangladesh, a comprehensive strategy is required. This strategy should focus on poverty alleviation, education, and strict enforcement of labour laws. Economic policies that create jobs for adults, social safety nets that protect vulnerable families and accessible quality education are essential components.

Moreover, community-based approaches that address cultural attitudes towards child labour and empower local leaders to advocate for children's rights are crucial.

No doubt, child labour in Bangladesh is a symptom of deeper socio-economic issues that need to be addressed holistically.

With comprehensive government action, NGO efforts, international collaboration, and community engagement, Bangladesh can move towards a future where every child has the opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to society. The eradication of child labour is not just a moral obligation, it is also crucial to ensure sustainable development.

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