Nepal | September 28, 2020

The working child

Waro Basnet
Share Now:
child labour

Child labour creates a vicious cycle of inescapable poverty


It is said that children are the pillars of the world and their overall development should be the utmost priority of every country. However, according to a joint data provided by UNICEF, Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Bank, an estimated 168 million children aged between five to 17 all over the world are engaged in child labour.

In Nepal, millions of children are found chasing a living in unacceptable working conditions that highlight a serious violation of their rights. However, the silver lining is that child labour in Nepal has been decreasing by 50 per cent every year, according to ILO. Although the charts depict a steady decline in child labour, the progress in child development is still far too slow.

Current scenario

The Interim Constitution of Nepal, in force since 2007, contains extensive provisions that specifically address the rights of children. Despite the efforts against forcing children to enter the workforce, child labour still remains a major problem in the country. According to ILO’s statistics, Nepal still accounts for 1.6 million children between the ages of 15-17 engaged in child labour, out of which 62,000 children between ages 5-17 are engaged in hazardous work. There are three international conventions at work in Nepal — ILO Convention number 138 stating the minimum age for admission to employment and recommendation; ILO Convention number 182 and, ILO Recommendation number 190 concerning prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. Although these conventions explicitly calls for immediate and effective measures to secure prohibition and elimination of worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency, the implementation of these are weak and many children are still forced into labour where they are heavily exploited.

Although Nepal’s constitution Article 22(5) says that children cannot be employed in factories, mines or other hazardous labour-centric work, and cannot be recruited into the police or armed forces, child labour practices are mostly seen in the very same fields — brick kilns, agricultural work, street hawking, mining and construction work, shoe shining, car washing, auto repair and conducting minibuses. Among these sectors, most have intolerable working conditions and exploitative work area where children are in risk of physically strenuous labour and domestic sexual exploitation. BinitaThapa, Programme Officer at ILO says, “Girls enter the labour world at an earlier age than boys and are primarily employed as domestic helps in households. 60 per cent of children in hazardous workplace are mostly girls.” She further says, “Girls are more likely to be engaged in the entertainment sector such as dance bars and hotels. This is also reflective of our society where boys are preferred over girls by most parents.” Trafficking of both girls and boys is also quite active in the country where children are trafficked both nationally and internationally for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. “Children are routinely forced into paid and unpaid forms of work that may not be physically harmful to them. However, they are classified as child labourers when they are either too young to work or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development,” says Rabin Nepali, Project Director at Save Our Soul (SOS).

Challenges aplenty

According to ILO, poverty is the single major factor responsible for the high prevalence of child labour in Nepal. With 25.2 per cent of Nepal’s population living below poverty line, families are often forced to send their children to work to sustain their family. Nepal suffers from widespread poverty leading to young children leaving homes to fend for themselves or to supplement their low household income. “In Nepal, child labour forms an important source of income for the child’s family,” says Nilkantha Acharya, Executive Manager at Association for the Protection of Children-Nepal (APCN).

The consequences of social inequities reinforced by racial or social discrimination is also the reason for wide practice of child labour. Children from indigenous groups in rural areas of Nepal are more likely to drop out of school to work. The inability of parents to earn and to decrease the economic burden in their family leaves the children with no choice but to enter the labour market whilst toiling hard to make money for their poor families.

Madhav Pradhan, President at Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN) says, “The explosive aspect in children’s work revolves around profit maximising urge of commercial establishments where children are made to work for long hours, paid low remuneration and are deprived of educational opportunities.” He further says, “Lack of social awareness is the major problem in the country. People living in rural areas don’t know the repercussions of child labour — physical and psychological. If the rural areas have strong educational facilities preparing young boys and girls for the bigger world then child labour will definitely be a thing of the past.”

According to Acharya, children are paid less than adults and those who employ children are more concerned with profit maximisation than the well-being of their employees. He says, “According to our research, working children are not paid for their work and are mistreated by their employers, so they ultimately end up on the streets.”

A large number of orphan children in the country also work in various sectors to sustain their livelihood. Children who do not have a valid birth certificate due to lack of awareness among their parents regarding the need of such certificates are usually unable to enter secondary school and sit for exams, forcing them to drop out and enter the labour world. Many children involved in labour miss classes, suffer from exploitation and poverty, and face various forms of ill-treatment.

Migration is also a major problem that contributes to the increase in child labour in Nepal. As per UNICEF data, migrant children are vulnerable to hidden and illicit labour. “Children are often seen migrating to urban areas in search of employment. The main reason behind this is lack of infrastructure in rural areas. Majority of these children are found in urban areas, especially in Kathmandu Valley and other industrial cities. Most of the children who are working as child labourers in Kathmandu came to the City as migrants,” says Pradhan.

The way out

Child labour cannot be eliminated by focussing on one determinant, like education or by enforcement of child labour laws. The government must ensure that the needs of the poor are met if it aspires to eradicate child labour. If poverty is taken care of, the need for children to work will not arise. But if people continue to use children as cheap labour stating their poverty as a good enough reason then the country will have both poverty and child labour till the end of time.

“The development of Nepal as a nation is hindered by child labour. In Nepal, children are growing up uneducated as they are more engaged in working rather than attending school for education. Hence, a cycle of poverty is formed and the need for child labour is reborn after every generation. Nepal has to address the situation by tackling the underlying causes of child labour through governmental policies and their proper enforcement,” says Nepali.  Many I/NGOs are also organising social programmes to address child labour. “We have recently organised the campaign, ‘The Green Flag Movement’ where our main goal was to eliminate child labour. The campaign was expanded to five wards in Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City, and over 100 children working in domestic services have been rescued under the programme,” informs Thapa.

In 2016, the government also agreed to implement its first nationally represented survey examining forced labour on both adults and child workers. “The survey will be implemented with Nepal Labour Force Survey during 2017-2018 and cover 18,000 households. It will be the first endeavour undertaken by any country to systematically collect national data on the population experiencing forced labour,” adds Thapa.

Towards eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour, (2013–2016), Government of Denmark funded $582,000 to the 3-year programme implemented by ILO-IPEC which included the development and testing of training programmes, the preparation of the national child labour policy, a revised hazardous work list, and recommendations for upgrading national legislation related to child labour.

A version of this article appears in print on March 04, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Students demand justice for Bajhang rape victim in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 26 Students take to the streets on Saturday demanding justice for a 12-year-old girl whose dead body was found in a temple in Bajhang district on Thursday night. The minor was raped before being killed by the culprit/s. As per local police, investigation into the case in unde Read More...

United earn dramatic win at Brighton with late Fernandes penalty

BRIGHTON: Manchester United beat Brighton & Hove Albion 3-2 away in the Premier League on Saturday after an incredible finale in which Bruno Fernandes struck the winning goal from the penalty spot in the 100th minute of the game. Fernandes's winner, which came after referee Chris Ka Read More...

Chelsea recover from three goals down to draw at West Brom

Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham struck a 93rd-minute equaliser as they battled back from three goals down to draw 3-3 at West Bromwich Albion in their Premier League clash on Saturday. An error by Marcos Alonso led to Callum Robinson opening the scoring for West Brom in the fourth minute and t Read More...

A team of women of Police march past in a programme organised to mark the Constitution day at Nepal Army pavilion in Tundikhel, Kathmandu, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Photo: Skanda Gautam/THT

Province 2 threatens to knock Supreme Court door

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 26 Months after the two bills related to adjustment of Nepal Police and Provincial Police were authenticated, provincial governments have not been able to take control of police. As a result, Province 2 government has sent an angry letter to the federal home ministry asking i Read More...

Local levels to resume schools from today in Siraha district

SIRAHA, SEPTEMBER 26 Community schools in Laxmipur Patari Rural Municipality and Mirchaiya Municipality of Siraha, that have remained closed for the past six months are likely to open from tomorrow. Education sections of both the local bodies, by issuing separate notices, decided to open s Read More...

Three persons including campus chief absconding

DHULIKHEL, SEPTEMBER 26 Three persons, including campus chief, have been absconding ever since police issued an arrest warrant against them in Kavre’s Banepa. A fraud charge was filed against three people including Kavre Multiple Campus Chief KJ Baidar in Kavre’s Banepa Municipality, with Read More...

Traffic police expedite monitoring of public vehicles

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 26 Traffic police have expedited inspection and monitoring of public vehicles in Kathmandu valley to ensure that they follow health guidelines and other requirements specified by the government to prevent and control COVID-19. Senior Superintendent of Police Bhim Prasad Dh Read More...

Food, medicines provided to returnees from India

DHANGADI, SEPTEMBER 26 Dhangadi sub-metropolis has been providing free food and health facilities for Nepalis returning from India at border entry point, in Dhangadi. Deputy Mayor Sushila Mishra Bhatta of the sub-metropolis said food and water were being offered to the returnees ever since the Read More...