Stop Child Labour
By Ferdusi Shampa
Child labour issue is one of the major concerns of our time. Child labour is the most severe form of child exploitation and child abuse. In any society, working children, as a socio-economic group, happen to be the most disadvantaged of all. Child labour is denial of the right to enjoy childhood that prevents the victim from growing up normally – both physically and psychologically. Worse still, hundreds of children are trapped in forced labour, debt bondage, prostitution and other kinds of jobs that cause everlasting damage.
The overwhelming majority of working children is found in developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Child labour has been generally perceived more as a problem of poor developing countries like Bangladesh which is consistently facing challenges like poverty, high population growth, unemployment problem, natural disaster and so on.
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. In Bangladesh, children are found working in almost every sector. Many industries rely heavily on child labour. They are tempted to hire children, as this group is much less aware of their rights and most unlikely to organise trade unions. They are also more trustworthy, more willing to take orders and do monotonous work, and less likely to be absent from work.
Industries are plainly dangerous and hazardous place of work for children. Children have been injured while engaged in underground mining and operating or cleaning machineries. Child workers are open to forced consumption of dust, gases, fumes, heat and noise. Muscular-skeletal and respiratory-related diseases are common among child labourers. Many of them work under conditions that leave them alarmingly vulnerable to chemical and biological hazards. Many even experience amputations or loss of body parts.
Moreover, children in certain occupations experience particular types of abuse. Child domestic workers are often found to be victims of verbal and sexual abuse, beating or punishment by starvation.
Furthermore, they are often subjected to exploitative working conditions as well as physical, social and emotional abuse. For many, insufficient pay with long hours of work, inadequate or no rest periods and little or no security of employment are the norm. A large number of child domestic workers are working either without salary or no fixed salary.
Child labour continues to increase due to population growth and dire poverty. About 55 million people live below poverty line in Bangladesh. Poor families badly need the money their children earn. Parents’ perceptions greatly influence their children’s participation in the labour force. That is why, nearly 50 percent of primary school students drop out before they complete grade 5.
Child labour is an important issue, but it doesn’t get much focus at the policy-making level in Bangladesh. It is a long-term problem that will not be solved with short term activities. The level of awareness on the issue and laws prohibiting are not sufficient.
The government must strengthen the laws and policies and implement them strictly. However, the responsibility lies not only on the government but also all members of society, in providing deprived children with quality education and a normal life. It will prevent them from working in hazardous or exploitative occupations.