Child labor goes unchecked despite laws


July 7, 2023


Child labor goes unchecked despite laws

Image for Representation.

KATHMANDU: Suraj Dhami was calling passengers to board a microbus plying between Ratnapark and Kalimati in the Kathmandu Valley.

Dhami, who just turned 11, works as a driver’s helper for the microbus. He fled his home in Sindhupalchok district to work in Kathmandu, the federal capital of Nepal, a dream city for most people.

The weak financial status of his family is a primary cause behind his leaving home and being deprived of education. “Ba (father) remarried when I was a child and went towards India with the stepmother. We had barely sustained a livelihood as my mother could not work. I fled my home to work in Kathmandu after my mother could not afford to support the family, let alone sending me to school,” he shared. He earns only Rs 1,000 a month as a driver’s helper.

Ramji Tamang, 12, works as a dishwasher for a hotel in Balaju for the past two years. He receives nothing in remuneration except food and accommodation provided by the hotel owner. Dhami and Tamang are just a very few representative minors who have been the victims of child labor.

According to available data, 1.1 million children below 14 years of age have been engaged in labor illegally. Of them, 200,000 people have working risky jobs. The number of children makes up around 15 percent of the total population of the country.

According to the Act Relating to Children, 2075 BS, children below 14 years of age shall not be deployed in any risky work or used as house servants or house-maid.

Child labor is work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development, according to the International Labor Organization.

According to available data, many children are found to be employed in public transport, hotels, restaurants, garages, workshops, quarries, construction, agriculture and car washing. The prevalence of child labor is higher in Karnali and Sudurpaschim Provinces. In Madhes, Karnali and Sudurpaschim Provinces, hundreds of children are found to have gone to India in search of job opportunities.

According to Article 51 of the constitution of Nepal under policies relating to labor and employment (i) (3), all forms of labor exploitation including child labor shall be abolished.

Article 39 (4) states that no child shall be employed to work in any factory, mine or engaged in similar other hazardous work. There are other acts that have criminalized child labor and their trafficking.

These acts are the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2056 BS, the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules, 2062 BS, the Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2075 BS, the Act Relating to Children, 2075 BS, the National Penal (Code) Act, 2074 BS, the Labor Act, 2074 BS, and the Human Trafficking and Transport (Control) Act, 2064 BS. However, these acts and rules have not been properly implemented leading to insecurity and child labor, warned concerned authorities.

To end child labor, an awareness campaign should be launched along with the effective implementation of the constitution, all laws, acts and regulations, said Yamlal Bhusal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens.

Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, unhealthy family life, economic deprivation, migration, lack of decent work opportunities for adults and adolescents and emergencies are among the factors that drive child labor, according to the International Labor Organization. These factors are however not only the cause but also a consequence of social inequalities reinforced by discrimination, it has been said.

Child workers are found to being exploited by depriving them of remuneration or low paying, and of basic amenities and security, engaging them in commercial sexual activities and forced begging, and meting out physical and mental tortures, according to Aasaman Nepal, an organization dedicated to children’s education, health and other rights operating in Sudurpaschim, Gandaki, Bagmati and Madhes Provinces that has been providing efficacy enhancing training on child participation and child-friendly counselling to the employees of organizations working in the field of child labor.

Lax implementation of laws relating to child labor at all three governments, local, provincial and federal has been a matter of concern, said the Aasaman Nepal’s advisor Guru Subedi emphasizing the launch of awareness programs from the local level.

According to a study carried out by Aasaman Nepal, most of the child workers surveyed expressed their desire to get enrolled in school while urging the government and concerned authorities to manage for them to get education. They were equally concerned about their families as they urged the concerned authorities to help their families generate income by providing job opportunities.

Vice Chairperson of the National Child Right Council Bam Bahadur Baniya said the Council had been monitoring child labor, and looking into and resolving related cases. Besides, other efforts are underway to end child labor, he added.

In the past five years, the number of child workers has dropped from 1.6 million to 1.1 million, said the Council. According to the Nepal Child Labor Report, 2021.

Out of around seven million children between the age of 5 and 17 years in the country, 1.1 million were found engaging in child labor, which is about 15.3 percent. Among the total children, 3.2 percent (about 0.2 million) are found to have been engaged in hazardous work.

Child labor is highest in Karnali Province (24.6 percent) followed by Sudurpaschim (20.9 percent), Koshi Province (17.6 percent), Gandaki (16.1 percent), Lumbini (15.8 percent), Madhes (11.5 percent), and Bagmati (8.9 percent).

Child labor prevalence is higher in the rural region (20.4 percent) as compared to the urban region (12.1 percent).

The highest child labor prevalence is found among Dalits (19.4 percent), followed by indigenous nationalities (18.1 percent), Brahmin/Chhetri (14.5 percent), Tarai caste (12.7 percent), Muslim and other caste categories (12.8 percent), and Newar (9.9 percent).

About 87 percent of child labor is from the agriculture sector while 13 percent is from the non-agriculture sector. The prevalence of female labor is higher as opposed to male child labor in the agriculture sector.