A Barrier To Achieving SDG
Md. Mustafizur Rahman :
It is the responsibility of every citizen to protect the children and to shape their future. In SDG-4, emphasis is placed on the quality of children's education. But a large part of the children are still associated with labour. Child labour can have a profound impact on a child's mental and physical growth. Currently, about 48 percent of the total population in the country is children. Therefore, the government's development activities can be hampered if children are not able to reduce labour. The Artices-14, 17, 28(4) and 34 of the Constitution of Bangladesh express against child labour.
According to the CRC everyone under the age of 18 has been called a child. In Bangladesh all human children under the age of 14 are called children, under section 2 (63) of the Labour Act of 2006 and under section 2 (8), all persons below the age of 14 to 18 years are called adolescent. The term "child" and "adolescent" shall be used in all cases by the Labour Act 2006 (Act XLII of 2006). Under this law, all forms of child labour are prohibited.
Those families that's have less earning person, poor and unconscious are often associated their children with labour. Some children drop out of school due to health problems, some parents go to work for certain months of the year including family. In addition children in industrial areas, Slums, Fisherman village and Char area are mostly associated with labour. Many children dropout of school due to lack of access of sanitation facilities in school and for insecurity on the way of school, later they became involved in regular labour.
The world is concerned about child labour. UNICEF conducted a survey (5-14 years) in the year 1997 and found that about 190 million children were associated with labour. The BBS and ILO also conducted surveys across the country in the 2013. It shows that 3.45 million children are associated with labour. Of these, the labour rate in the rural areas is much higher than about 2.47 million. UNESCO Institute for Statistics also published a report that in agriculture 39.7 percent, in the service sector 30.9 percent and in the factory are associated with child labour 29.4 percent. 98.1 percent of these children completed primary education but most did not finish secondary level. They are the victims of early marriage. The study also found that children employed in household tasks spend the night at their employer's home and these children are more likely to be sexually assaulted. According to a survey, 182 domestic workers were killed and around 146 injured during the period 2014-2018. About 12 lack children are currently involved in hazardous activities in Bangladesh. Presently 38 types of work have been identified as hazardous work.
Since independence the "Child Act 1974" was enacted to protect children. In 1989 CRC was adopted. Bangladesh ratified it in the 1990. Regarding this a (MOU) was signed between BD Government and ILO in the 1994. A full labour law was enacted in 2006. In the 2010, the Ministry of Labour and Employment formulated NCEP. The 'Child Labour Welfare Council' was formed to monitor the situation of child labour in the 2011. At the same time, the government incorporated child labour into the Sixth-Five Year Plan (2011-2015). Since Bangladesh is one of the countries that signed the CRC, there is a need for a full law to uphold the rights of children. In this regard, the 'Child Act 2013' was enacted in July 2013. Similarly, Article 90 of the Labour Act 2006 was amended on July 2013 and, the 'Labour amendment act 2013' was enacted. The Act provides for 'Labour Rule 2015 to make child labour more specific. The Cabinet approved the principle of Bangladesh 'Labour amendment act 2018' in order to make the existing labour law more compliant. The draft approval of the amended law was approved at the Secretariat meeting on 3 September, 2019. Although there are 354 Sections in the labour law, the new amendment has added 2 clauses, 4 subsections, 8 clauses. 6 subsections have been abolished, 41 amendments have been proposed.
A review of the history of human civilisation shows that children have been involved in labour in some way since time immemorial. But as people receive education, child labour rates are starting to decline. Children should grow up in a fun and playful environment from an early age. Appointing them to labour at this time impedes their physical and mental development. It is also socially and morally damaging. Child labourers often drop out of school. Since they cannot receive education, they cannot play a role in national development. Some of them engage in anti-social activities for poverty and depression. Someone becomes physically sick, many suffer accidents and some die. For this reason, child labour is prohibited by law and provision of maximum punishment is also kept. But still there is no hope of child labour. Contemporary Plan International Bangladesh and Rupantar conducted a survey on child labour in 6 unions in Hatibandha upazila of Lalmonirhat district. The survey identified 240 child labourers. Only 15 percent of the children were able to return to school. Others are trying to get back but due to age excess, poverty and parental reluctance, it is not yet possible.
Since independence, various initiatives have been taken but not reduced child labour as expected. Some useful initiatives can be taken in this regard:
3. Because about 83 percent of the child labour lives in rural areas, students and parents can be made aware by forming committees at district, upazila and even school level. 2. Identify working children and provide separate education for them. 3. Poor child labourers family need to be supported through the Union Parishad safety net program, which can be allocated to the union parishad budget if needed. 4. The government monitoring system needs to be improved, reviewing the current laws on child labour, a national plan is required with Inter-Ministerial planning is needed to stop child labour 5. Labour-owned organizations have to make a commitment to stop child labour. 6. After 2013 now child labour surveys are essential for making new plans. The survey has to link the informal sector because 93 percent of the total child labour stays in the sector.
The SDG Target 8.7 aims to "eliminate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour". This target is to be achieved by 2030. Bangladesh Government has already incorporated child labour to the PRSP and Vision announces the withdrawal of all children from hazardous work by 2021 and the termination of all forms of child labour by 2025. Child budget allocation (as percent of GDP) has marginally increased from 2.59 percent in BFY19 to 2.78 percent in BFY20. The legal structure of Bangladesh is trying to stop illegal child labour. It is hoped that Bangladesh will soon become child labour free an ideal country.
(Md. Mustafizur Rahman, a development researcher; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)