While child labour is on a declining trend in other South Asian countries – India and Pakistan and in the world, it has been increasing in Bangladesh. This increasing trend in the incidence of child labour particularly focuses on the irrelevance or inadequacy of existing child labour laws in Bangladesh. Involvement of children in different labour fields raises the question of humanity all the time. Yet, we can not deny the need of child labour at all. The children, who are involved in child labour, are productive and supportive in many respects to the society, their families and themselves. So, there is a distinct quandary whether child labour is harming or supporting the society.
Children are the best kind of scientists— thinks Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, the former president of India. But, the fate of the child labours are so awesome that, they can not flourish their inquisitive minds to the full bloom and are forced to be entangled with hard labour. Children are involved in more than hundred and fifty types of work among the double number of work fields. The labour force participation rate of children aged 10 to 14 years increased to 39 per cent in 2000 from 21 per cent in 1981— according to a report of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). It is a sign of deteriorated situation of children’s involvement in labour fields. Children are forced to remain attached to various jobs including some dangerous work; such as— acid workshop, automobiles, drug selling, etc.
The incidence of child labour is not new in Bangladesh. It was prevalent mostly in the rural setting of Bangladesh as a normal socialization process. In the agrarian society, children have worked and still work alongside their parents in the field or in the home as a process of household production under parental protection, but for the survival of the family. It is found that children in rural Bangladesh contribute to their family’s income as early as five years of age. Child labour has been attached so deeply to rural life, year after year that it is often regarded as something very natural and a legitimate practice; nobody thinks that it may have any adverse effect on a child’s schooling and development; rather it is considered to some extent as a part of their education and socialisation. These children become endurable to the hardships of reality to the long run. It is a good sign of such kind of child labour.
Male children become the net producers of the family at quite an early age (by the age of 12 years), and after the age of 15 years, their cumulative production exceeds their cumulative consumption— reports BSS. The participation rate of boys is relatively very high in comparison to female children. Child labour as household work is not counted formally. Child sex workers are a curse of society. Child labour has become more visible in recent years, particularly because of the emergence of garment industry in Bangladesh during the 1980s, and the widespread use of child labour by this industry. By being attached to such booming sectors, children are being able to turn them as experts for future market.
It is a bad sign that the children are being dropped away from their academic education because of their involvement as child-labourers. They cannot manage time to go to the playground. Children of this kind have greater risks of confronting physical disability, mental lethargy, accident or death.
At the same time, children of this kind are capable of their enhancing their imaginative creativity alongside practical knowledge. Their endurance is more than that of other boys. As they are not idle, there is no scope for them to go astray.
According to the Population Census of 1974, the urban child labour participation rate accounted for 15.5 per cent in 1974, but this figure increased to 31 per cent in 1999–2000 for children aged 10–14 years as reported by the Labour Force Survey. The urban child labour (10–14 years) participation rate has been increasing more rapidly than the rural child labour participation rate since 1989. Thus, they are taking part in our economy & production directly.
The Children’s Act of 1974 prohibits the employment of children less than 16 years of age in begging, and the exploitation of children in brothels US DOL (2003). Repression of Women and Children Prohibition Act of 2000, trafficking of women and children is an offence punishable by death or life imprisonment. These laws, however, focus mainly on the employment of children in the factory, shop and establishment sectors ignoring the employment of children in the rural economy. Bangladesh’s labour law does not make any reference to the problem of child labour in the agricultural sector, which absorbs almost 65 per cent of the total child labour force. Therefore, the agricultural sector, small-scale business, informal sector and household employment are exempted from these laws. Thus, more than 80 per cent of the economic activity of children falls outside the protection of the labour code. Their economic activities should be counted duly.
The dilemma of child labour is very rational. It seems deep-rooted in our social structure. It is not a natural phenomenon. It is a kind of our self-created approach. We can neither accept the go of the child labour, nor can we deny it. Children are the part of society. A recent survey shows tahe, 56.2% children drop out before completing the primary education level; poverty is the prime reason behind it. A great number of them are invisibly forced to be involved in various burdensome labours to support their families. As this phenomenon has become the part and parcel of society, we need to reform the job environment by inserting educative stuffs in these. For the better formation of social & psychological development of this tender labour class, a proper environment of evaluation should be set up. It will definitely motivate the child labourers to perform their job with satisfaction. By classifying their job criteria, we can lessen their burden and diminish their risks at job sector.
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