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Child labour situation in Bangladesh

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08th-Jan-2018       
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Rayhan Ahmed Topader :
The definition of child labour varies depending on region, culture, organization, and government. The Western perspective portrays childhood as a carefree stage of life in which a person does not possess the capacity to be an adult. Although there is no universal definition for child labour, various organizations have defined child labour and its parameters.
The International Labour Organization's Minimum Age Convention 138 states that at age 12 a child is allowed to light work in non-hazardous situations and at age 15 a child is allowed to enter the work force. The ILO defines child labour as "work that exceeds a minimum number of hours, depending on the age of a child and on the type of work. The ILO also has three categories pertaining to children in work: economically active children, child labour, and hazardous work. Children can be categorised as economically active if they are involved in work outside of school or the home at least one hour once every seven days. Children can be categorised as performing child labour if they are under the age of 12 or performing hazardous work. Children are categorised as performing hazardous work if they are involved in activities that may harm their physical, mental, or developmental health or safety. Child labour in Bangladesh has been a subject of persistent debate. But there really should be no argument about it; children should be at school and other means need to be found to help families who depend on their earnings to get by.
We simply cannot justify the fact that millions of children in the country are out of school. Families on the breadline are allowing children as young as five year olds to work and that is how more children are joining the labour force every day. Child labour is an issue that is as old as it is endemic, and while there are laws banning the practice, they have proved difficult to fully enforce. The reason for this is simple: it is extreme poverty that leads the guardian of young children to put them to work for whatever pittance they are granted by their employers. And this is the reason the practice is so hard to stamp out. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive survey of child labour in this country. There is also a need to eradicate the confusion that exists over child labour.
Perhaps, speaking of the immediate, it is inevitable. But at the very least we can adopt measures to protect children in their workplace. A pragmatic first step towards eradicating child labour would be the establishment of registries under welfare bodies where the names of children employed in households are entered so that their welfare can be monitored on a frequent basis.
Overseas Development Institute survey finds 15% of six-to 14-year-olds living in poorest households work an average of 64 hours a week. Most mornings,15-year-old Iqbal arrives for his job at a Dhaka panel beaters at about 10am, working on cars for up to 13 hours before he can go home. The teenager, who earns less than £60 a week, has been working these hours since the age of 12, when his family's financial problems forced him out of school and into a full-time job.
A major study released on Wednesday suggests his case might be typical of Bangladesh's poorest young people. A survey of 2,700 slum households, carried out by the Overseas Development Institute, found that child labourers living in slums worked an average of 64 hours each week many in supply chains connected to the world's most popular brands. The survey, among the largest conducted in the south Asian country, found 15% of children aged between six and 14 did not go to school and worked full-time. Two-thirds of girls from slum areas who were working full-time were employed in Bangladesh's $30bn (£24bn) clothes manufacturing industry, which is one of the world's largest despite an extremely poor safety record.
The manager of one unnamed garment factory told researchers that, while he was aware children aged 11 and 14 should not be working, he did not regard their employment as illegal.
He also admitted that many of his employees did not carry identification cards that would verify their age. There was no immediate comment from Bangladesh authorities or its powerful garment manufacturers, but union leaders said child labour in factories was rampant. The extent of child labour in Bangladesh's textile industry was laid bare in July when a nine-year-old boy was brutally killed at one of the largest spinning factories. Police probing the case said they found a quarter of the workforce at the factory outside Dhaka were children.
International brands have been part of the push to eradicate child labour and improve safety standards in factories since the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,135 people.
But the chief executive of Save the Children, Kevin Watkins, who co-authored the report, said that given the number of children working in the industry it was implausible to believe that there isn't significant pollution of the value chains of large-scale, western companies. Many of these girls are not in the biggest factories in the formal sector, but they're certainly in the supply chains of those factories, Components of textile manufacturing such as sewing buttons were sometimes contracted out by the large factories to smaller workshops, over which government scrutiny was likely to be poor or non-existent,
There are very significant levels of child labour in products that end up in retail outlets in the UK and elsewhere. The study also found that more than 36% of boys and 34% of girls said they had experienced extreme fatigue on the job. It said that families were usually keen for their children to remain in school, but were unable to afford to live without the extra income, albeit meagre. West are very much worried and tense. In the long term, of course, the only thing that can end such exploitation of children is poverty alleviation and family planning. Schools should be set up for children in their workplace and a limit put on the hours of labour. We need to ensure that the lives of so many children in our country are not destroyed.
Too many children are denied opportunity because they must go out to work. There have also been findings that the poor state of public sector schools and the refusal of children to attend them results in parents sending them out to work in the hope that they will learn a trade. This cycle of evil needs to be addressed collectively and everything possible done to protect children, a large number of whom are employed in hazardous professions despite the fact that Bangladesh has signed international conventions against such practices.
(raihan567@yahoo.com)

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