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Child Labour-present scenario

Child labour is a pervasive problem throughout the world, specifically in the

developing countries. In the third world countries, it is not only a lively subject but also a
most pressing problem. Child labour is simply the most severe form of exploitations and
abuses of children in the society today. The global fight against child labour remains a
daunting challenge. All over the world, children are being forced to undertake work that
bereaves them of education and can often damage them physically or psychologically.
The characteristics of child labour include: (a) work by young children; (b) long hours of
work on a regular full time basis; (c) hazardous working conditions (physically or
mentally or both); (d) insufficient or no access to school; (e) abusive or invective
treatment by employer; and (f) work in slave arrangements (bonded labour).

Definition of “Child Labour”

Child labour has no universally accepted definition. Varying definitions of the
term are used by international organizations, non-government organizations, trade unions
and other interest groups. Researchers do not always specify what definition they are
using, and that often leads to confusion. However, the definition of child labour is
broadly based on following factors:
(a) some normative assist of minimum age for employment;
(b) a presumption of access to education implying that any child out of school should
be counted as a potential child worker;
(c) a notion of rights implying thereby that children deprived of their fundamental
childhood rights because of the nature of their work constitute child workers.
An accurate and wide-ranging definition of child labour encompasses all the elements
that keep children away from the activities that would lead them to normal and
healthy growth. However, school education forms a vital aspect of a child’s growth
and is accepted as a normal activity for a child.
Statistics on Child Labour
In Asia 22% of the workforce are children. In Latin America, 17% of the
workforce are children. However, child labour is less in developed countries. The
reasons behind it are as follows:
(i) economic development that raised family incomes and living standards;
(ii) affordable and relevant education
(iii) enforcement of anti-child labour laws
(iv) changes in public attitudes towards children that elevated the importance of

In May2006, the ILO published its second Global Report on Child Labour. The
report indicated that in 2004 there were 218 million children trapped in child labour, of
whom 126 million were in hazardous work. The number of child labourers globally fell
by 11 percent over the last four years, while that of children in hazardous work decreased
by 26 percent which is significant and positive trend.

However, the least progress is being made in the Sub-Saharan Africa, the region
with the highest incidence of child labour, and where the overall number of child
labourers rose somewhat-there are now nearly 50 million children under the age of 15
estimated to be working in the region.

Of nearly 218 million children engaged in child labor around the world, the vast
majority—69 percent, or some 150 million—are working in agriculture. Child
agricultural workers frequently work for long hours in scorching heat, haul heavy loads
of produce, are exposed to toxic pesticides, and suffer high rates of injury from sharp
knives and other dangerous tools. Their work is grueling and harsh, violating their rights
to health, education, and protection from work that is hazardous or exploitative.
According to the ILO's new report on child labor, the number of children working in
agriculture is nearly ten times that of children involved in factory work such as garment
manufacturing, carpet-weaving, or soccer-ball stitching.

Child Labour and Globalization

Globalization is cultural and political, as well as economic, and in recent years
primarily European and North American concepts of global human rights have been
promoted throughout the world as political and cultural products that should be adopted
by rich and poor countries alike. As part of this movement, the rights of children have
become an increasingly important subject of international concern and action, and the
U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted in 1989 and now ratified by
all countries except Somalia and the United States, has become the most widely
subscribed human rights treaty ever. This convention has effectively focused and
globalized international discussion of children's rights and established a set of principles
and responsibilities to which nearly all countries are now officially committed. UNICEF
and various nongovernmental child defense organizations are dedicated to securing the
CRC's effective implementation. Because of its unparalleled official reach, the CRC can
be seen as a globalized response for protecting children in a world becoming increasingly
smaller and more interdependent.

The Nature and Role of International Conventions

International political action against child labor is closely linked to international
conventions, a form of treaty that carries the force of law in signing nations, sponsored
through the U.N. system and subscribed to by countries through a formal process of
ratification. These conventions establish international guidelines and standards that
ratifying countries commit themselves to follow in their own national policies. Three
international conventions comprise the main global reference points for national and
international policy regarding child labor: the ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138)
of 1973, the already mentioned 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the
new ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182) of 1999.2 Each of the two
ILO conventions is accompanied by a set of recommendations regarding how to
implement it. Together, the three conventions reflect competing and progressively
changing notions of childhood and the role of work in it.

Child Labour Situation in Bangladesh

In our country child labour has been on the rise due to extreme poverty, low level of
literacy, absence of educational facilities, gender discrimination, massive migration from
rural areas and river erosion. The worst forms of child labour include working in
wielding workshops, helper of tempo or human haulers, bidi factory, bedding store,
tannery industries, battery factory and others. According to the second National Child
Labour Survey 2003, there are 42.39 million children aged 5-17 years, including 7.42
million economically active. Of them, about 3.18 million were engaged in child labours
representing 7.5 per cent of the entire child population of this range. About five million
children out of 42.39 million aged 5-17 years were working and not attending school.
About 52.7 per cent were engaged in agriculture and forestry,14.6 per cent in
manufacturing and 14.2 per cent in trading, according to the survey. there are about 1
crore children under the age of 18 who are involved with different sorts of risky and
harmful jobs, said a survey conducted by Save the Children, UK. According to the
survey, 24 per cent of them are engaged in hazardous child labour to earn their livelihood
while about 99 per cent of child labours deprived of having any basic facilities at their
workplaces. Moreover, 80 per cent of child labours have to work for more time than the
working hours, the survey says, adding that even 38 per cent of them works more than 10
hours every day.

Concluding Remarks

The existence of child workers and child labour is an indicator of poverty and the
depressed economic status of a section of the population that supplies child labourer. If
the wider definition of child labour is accepted, which is that all the children who do not
attend school should be counted as child labour, the incidence of child labour is
enormous. Intuitively, to create a theme for child labour is an easy task, but the tougher
part is finding ladders for child labourers to climb out of the deep pits of violence and
discrimination they live in. Elimination of child labour is a long process and it can't be
done without the help of everyone. The best way to stop child abuse is to make people
aware about child rights.


Student, LL.B., University of Dhaka
Research Assistant, CCB Foundation.