Friday, October 21, 2011
The average person will not know the location of Bangladesh, my home country. (It's in South Asia, adjacent to India). Despite it's small size, Bangladesh is extremely over-populated and extremely poor. Although there are many health and education issues, child labor continues to be a big problem. Child labor is defined as, "Child labour is work that exceeds a minimum number of hours, depending on the age of a child and on the type of work. Such work is considered harmful to the child and should therefore be eliminated." (UNICEF). Although child labor is illegal in Bangladesh, the garment industry employed between 50,000 and 75,000 children under 14.
In 1992, the US enforced legislation that banned the importation of goods made using child labor and this decreased number of children employed. However, they went looking for new jobs in stone-crushing, street hustling and prostitution, all activities that are much more dangerous than garment making. In 1995, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), UNICEF, and International Labor Organization (ILO) made an agreement. They agreed to move all workers aged below 14 to attend an appropriate education program for four months, under-age workers cannot be hired, and the children's jobs should be offered to qualified adult family members. NGO's have been pacing child laborers in special schools and are protected and receive health care.
Despite all of these reforms and programs, child labor still exists in Bangladesh. According to UNICEF's 2010 report for child labor in Bangladesh, 3.2 million are child laborers, aged 5- 17. 421,000 child domestic workers work seven days a week and 90% sleep at the employer's home, so they are completely dependent on their employers and have restrictions on their mobility and freedom. Hundreds of thousands of children work in hazardous jobs, which expose children to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, excessive work hours, and an unhealthy environment. For example, 3,400 children work in brick/stone breaking. Children are not provided with any safety gear or protection from brick dust. 123,000 children work as rickshaw pullers, 56,000 work in carpentry.
Within the past year, through reforms implemented by UNICEF, more than 6,600 learning centers have been established in the six cities of Bangladesh, which provides basic education and life skills training to 166,150 urban working children. Please refer to the UNICEF pdf file for more statistics. What still needs to be done, however, is to increase awareness about child labor because it exists all over the world, not just Bangladesh. Fortunately, the National Child Labor Elimination Policy 2010 has been adopted. I hope the numbers of child laborers in Bangladesh are declining.