A new survey on 'Employment Relationship in the Brick Industry in Nepal' unveils important information on forced labour, bonded labour and child labour in the sector.

The report unveiled coinciding with the 'International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour', calls for a concerted effort by all key stakeholders - government, industry employers and workers - to work for decent work agenda in the country's brick production industry.

While Nepal taken great strides in fighting traditional bonded labour practices, new evidence collected through the survey, jointly carried out by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF, indicates that bonded and forced labour still exist in the country's private sector, including in the brick industry.

The survey exposes prevalence of labour exploitation with 6,229 (3.5 per cent) workers in forced labour among the 176,373 manual labourers in the brick kilns (including family members). An estimated 34,593 children (between ages of five and 17) are living in brick kilns. Children account for approximately 10 per cent (17,738) of total workers, and 96 per cent of these working children (17,032) were identified as being in child labour.

"The study, first-of-its-kind in Nepal, has highlighted the important insights about the child labour situation in the brick kiln industry, which would greatly contribute to monitor child labour-related policies and programmes implemented by the government of Nepal," Nebin Lal Shrestha, director general of CBS has been quoted as saying in a media release.

The research also found that migrant workers represent a high proportion of workers in the brick kilns: Only 22 per cent of total workers are originally from the same district where the kiln is located; 32 per cent of the workers come from other districts of Nepal, and 46 per cent of the workers have migrated from India. Rolpa, Rautahat, Dang, Kailali and Sarlahi are the top five source districts of Nepali brick kiln workers that supply nearly 46 per cent of workers in different kilns across the country.

"The report highlights important statistics on decent work-deficit that leads to forced and child labour situation in Nepal, and while the challenges to overcome it are multi-faceted, ILO Nepal is committed to supporting the government and the development partners through its programmes by implementing preventive as well as responsive measures," said Richard Howard, director of the ILO Country Office for Nepal.

In terms of payment modality, over three quarters (75.7 per cent) of the workers receive an advance payment from the naikes (labour contractors), and 3.5 per cent directly from the employers. The advance payments having no clarity on repayment usually tends to turn as debt for following years thereby increasing vulnerability to forced labour.

Illiteracy was found to be an important vulnerability factor for child and forced labour.

This could have direct impact on the awareness of the labour laws and regulations amongst workers and employers. The survey revealed that only four per cent of workers were aware of current minimum wage rate; four per cent say they are aware of labour law or rules.

Membership in trade unions is almost non-existent.

Employers' knowledge of the legal framework is more common: 66 per cent of employers are aware of the Labour Act; 42 per cent of the Animal Act; 88 per cent of the Child Labour; and 63 per cent of the Security and Health Act.

"As we enter the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, this report is a reminder of the critical need to strengthen concerted action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in all sectors of society. This new evidence will inform and guide government policymakers, brick kiln industry stakeholders and development actors in their collective action to tackle economic exploitation of children and their families," said Elke Wisch, UNICEF Nepal Representative.

"We must work together to ensure that the cost of producing construction materials is not borne by the children of Nepal."