A large number of children are engaged in hazardous jobs in the capital, but the authorities seem to be either unaware of the critical level of child labour or have turned a blind eye to the issue.
Children work in such factories for long hours mostly in poor working condition, and they are low-paid and often treated badly by the supervisors or the owners. Many children are also working as the drivers’ aides for bus, truck or human haulers in the capital.
According to the National Child Labour Elimination Policy-2010, children under the age of 14 cannot be employed in any job while those below 18 can do light work but cannot be employed in hazardous occupations. The policy has defined individuals under 18 years old as children.
During visits to different motorcycle workshops of the capital, this correspondent talked to a number of child labourers. Many children alleged that they have no fixed working hours and they are deprived of education and entertainment.
Shariful Islam, a 14-year-old worker at a motorcycle garage in Palashi area of Lalbagh, said he has been working at the bike workshop for the last two years.
“I have to work 12 to 14 hours a day,” he said, adding that they often get injured while working in the motor garage.
Yunus, a 12-year old human hauler helper, said, “I have been working as a helper for last one year. I dropped out from primary school as my father could not afford to send me to the school.”
While asked about the risks associated with his job, Yunus said, “I have to take the risk as my livelihoods depend on this job. I do not have any other skills to switch to another job.”
Shafiq Ali, 14, who works in a shoe factory, said, “We work here 12 hours a day and six days a week.”
According to the ‘Child Labour Survey (CLS) Bangladesh 2013 conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics with support from International Labour Organization (ILO), there are 3.45 million working children in the country between the ages 5 to 17 years comprising 1.75 million who are not child labour by definition and 1.70 million who are child labour of them 1.28 million are doing various hazardous jobs.
Among the hazardous child workers, there are 0.26 million child workers who are engaged in notified hazardous work. The number of child workers is 1.15 million in rural areas, 0.29 million in urban areas and 0.25 million in City Corporation areas, according to the CLS 2013.
When contacted, Mustafa Rahman, Assistant Director of Aparajeyo Bangladesh, a non-government organisation working for the disadvantaged children, told daily sun “The appalling fact is that children are working for long hours. Most of the time they work 14 hours a day.”
“There are no rules and regulations, no official working hours and no salary structure. Owners pay them as per their wish. They (child) have nothing to say about salary or wage,” he added.
Mustafa also pointed out that the children are deprived of education which is the most important factor for their progress in future.
“Earlier, we suggested city corporation’s trade licence department not to issue trade license to the factory owners hiring child workers,” he said.
“Besides, we also talked with the factory owners of Lalbagh. We told them not to recruit any child in hazardous jobs. But if they recruit children, we told them not to engaged them in hazardous work,” he added.
Nasimul Hasan, advocacy chief of INCIDIN Bangladesh, told daily sun that the latest survey shows that that the number of child labour has increased slightly.
He also said climate-related disasters including river erosion, and cyclone raised levels of poverty, forcing children from education and into the workforce to support their families. He said the government should rehabilitate the families who became destitute due to river erosion and cyclone.
“This will help check child labour as poverty is forcing many families to send their children to work,” he added.