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World Day Against Child Labour 2015: Where do we stand?

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This year on 12 June, ILO celebrates WDACL-2015 with an eminent theme ‘No to Child Labour – Yes to Quality Education’ to encourage the global community to raise their voice against child labour and in the call for all children to have a right to education. Education has a pivotal role in the creation of not only human capital, but also social changes, especially the making of a progressive, democratic society that values sustainable development, economic growth, poverty reduction and elimination of child labour.

ILO in the ‘World Report on Child Labour 2015: Paving the way to decent work for young people’ highlights the close linkages between child labour and youth employment outcomes, and the consequent need for common policy approaches to addressing challenges arising in countries where both child labour and youth unemployment prevail.
The World Day Against Child Labour this year focuses particularly on the importance of quality education as a key step in tackling child labour. It is very timely to do so, as in 2015 the international community will be reviewing reasons for the failure to reach development targets on education and will be setting new goals and strategies. Proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) no. 4 urges to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all which will come into force next year.
For Bangladesh also it is high time to incorporate needed policies and strategies into its 7th Five-Year Plan to tackle with child labour issue.
Though there is room for improvement, in our country exist quite a few laws and policies regarding child labour.
Article 14 of Bangladesh constitution says about the emancipation of peasants and workers. Article 34 prohibits all forms of forced labour. Article 28(4) provides opportunity to make special provisions in favour of women or children and article 15 declares right to education as one of the fundamental principles of state policies. Article 17 ensures free and compulsory education for all children to such stage as may be determined by law. Which is at present up to fifth grade under the Compulsory Education Act, 1990.
The Act that deals exclusively with child labour is the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006. The Act defines children and adolescent for the purpose of employment in the formal sectors. A child is considered to be a person below the age of 14 years [sec. 2(63)] while an adolescent is a person between the age of 14-18 years [sec. 2(8)]. This law prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years. Section 34-44 deals with employment of adolescent and imposes restrictions as regards types of employment, working hours etc. But section 44 allows the employment of children of 12 years in lights work which is not dangerous to his health and development or which will not prevent him from his education.
Section 80 of the Child Act, 2013 which deals with exploitation of child is also relevant to the issue of child labour.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 also can be related with child labour. After child marriage female children usually get engaged in household works. They also help in agricultural works. But these household labour is not recognized and excluded form GDP. This is called unpaid labour.
We also have some policies regarding child labour in our country. Few of those are (1) National Plan of Action for Children in Bangladesh, 2009-10 which focused at the child labour issue for the first time. (2) National Child Labour Elimination Policy, 2010 which identified 10 strategic areas of action to eliminate child labour. (3) National Labour Policy, 2012 para 20 of which says that the government will discourage child labour in both formal and informal sector; in both rural and urban areas. (4) National Children Policy, 2011 para 9 specifically mention about elimination of child labour in light with National Child Labour Elimination Policy, 2010. (5) Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy, 2010 (draft) also should be finalized, enacted and implemented soon. The domestic Work also needs to be included into the list of Hazardous Work.
Bangladesh ratified the ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) in 2001. Although prohibited by the Labour Act (2006), nearly 3.2 million children aged 5-17 work in Bangladesh (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2003). Out of these child labourers, 1.3 million are engaged in hazardous work. Many of them work in ship breaking yards, construction sites, metal factories or Bidi factories. This information is outdated and the present number is much higher. Bangladesh has also ratified the United nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (UNCRC) in 1990 with reservation in Article 14 (paragraph 1) and Article 21. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights1966 was acceded in 1998 by us.
But Bangladesh has not ratified the ILO Convention 138 on minimum age of work and 189 on decent work for domestic workers which it should without any delay.
Despite all these Acts, policies and Conventions if the implementation mechanisms do not work properly both elimination of child labour and providing quality education won’t be possible.
There is a clear need for greater coordination of national policies and strategies on issues of child labour and education for this. Education and training can be key drivers of social and economic development. An inclusive, practical, skill and knowledge oriented education policy can help in this regard. The proper execution of the above law, policies and convention can pave the way to build a world in which every child attended school and nobody will be forced to work against their will. 

Sabbir Hossain Rhythm

Sabbir Hossain Rhythm

Sabbir Hossain Rhythm is currently studying LLM at University of Dhaka. He is serving as a Managing Editor of the Bangladesh Law Digest (BDLD).
Sabbir Hossain Rhythm
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