A lot of children of Bangladesh are deprived of food and shelter; therefore they work to earn money, but according to child labour law it is illegal. So to earn some money should limited child labor be allowed in Bangladesh?

A lot of children of Bangladesh are deprived of food and shelter; therefore they work to earn money, but according to child labour law it is illegal. So to earn some money should limited child labor be allowed in Bangladesh?


Child labour is a common practice in most of the underdeveloped and developing countries, though it is not permitted by law. Not surprisingly, Bangladesh, being a developing nation is not free from this curse. Children of different ages have been employed in industries, factories, hotels and in a lot of other sectors of Bangladesh where immense physical labor is involved. Poverty is being the main reason behind it. These children are deprived of food, education, shelter and moreover the basic amenities of life. Poverty forces them to work for money. Therefore, at a very young age when they were supposed to study and play they are working in difficult and hazardous fields simply to exist in this cruel world. Though there is Child Labor Law and ILO and different organizations are holding seminars or conferences at national and international level, but the reality is child labor is still on.

In this essay I am going to discuss about the child labor law of Bangladesh and to what extent it is practiced here. Also, I am going to suggest some ways so that the law looks more realistic in the context of Bangladesh and I am going to see is there any way that child labor can be allowed in Bangladesh in a limited way.


There is no specific definition of “child labor.” The definition also depends on the seriousness of the problem and varies from one act to another. However, it can be generally said that the segment of a total child population who are involved in any work paid or unpaid can be called child labour.[1] According to ILO convention (1973) a child can only be employed if it completes his 14th year. It is prescribed for any less developed countries like Bangladesh.[2]

So, it can be said that if a child (according to ILO which is under 15) get employed then in can be called a child labour.


In Bangladesh there are different acts according to the kind of labour and age of the child. Most of the laws are the products of the British period and the then Pakistan period. These laws are briefly discussed below:

The Mines Act 1923

Any child up to 15 years cannot work in a mining industry. However after the completion of the 15th year it is legal to work in a mining industry.[3]

The Children (Pledging of Labor) Act 1933

This act also implies that a child below 15 cannot work.[4]

The Employment of Children Act 1938

The act implies that children under the age of 15 years if are employed or engaged in the transport of passengers or goods by road, railway or seaport is illegal. The Act also says that children up to 17 also cannot be employed in such activities if the working hours are not specified.[5]

The Tea Plantation Ordinance 1962

The Act defines that any child working in tea plantation below 12 years in illegal. Besides, above 12 and who are close to puberty between 15-17 years of age can be permitted with proper evidence that certifies their physical fitness. Otherwise, it is prohibited to work for them and any violation of this law can be punished with fine, imprisonment or both.[6]

The Factories Act 1965

According to this Act any child under the age of 14 years should not be working in any factory. Besides, a child below 16 or close to puberty but less than 18 years of age can work in a factory in case there is medical certificate which certifies his or her fitness.[7]

The Shops and Establishments Act 1965

The Act sates that children up to 12 years cannot work in a shop. Though, a child below 18 can work if it works not more than 7 hours a day or 42 years per week.[8]

The Children Act 1974

According to this Act Children less than 16 cannot be exposed to illegal objects and cannot be exploited activities which ranges from begging, exposing to drugs or liquor or to prostitution.[9]


Bangladesh is famous for its cheap labor cost all over the world. There are a lot of reasons behind it. But, one hidden reason is a lot of sectors starting from manufacturing factories to service departments employ children to work for them and they are paid with low wage or salary.

Every day thousands of children who are around the age of 10 are found working and are paid half of the salary paid to an adult. So, it encourages the factory owners to employ children to cut their cost.[10]

Violation of child labor law is a common practice in Bangladesh. It can be broadly classified into urban and rural child labor practice. In the rural areas of Bangladesh child labor is mostly found in the agricultural sector. Whereas, In the urban areas of Bangladesh children are working in different factories like garment, shrimp factories, cigarettes, glassware, leather goods, food processing and canning, bakeries, spinning and weaving, pottery shops, toyshops, metal works and other manufacturing and service units.[11]The children are also work as mechanics, cleaners, junk collectors, transport helpers, domestic workers and so on.[12]

Besides these children are also involved working in hazardous and very risky plants and industries like ship-breaking yards. We have the second largest ship breaking yard in Asia. According to Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, almost 2000 children aging between 10 to 14 are working in this sector. It is a risky place to work where the children are working bare footed or just wearing flip flops where the sharp, rusty, metal shards and splinters are all over the floor.

Another sector where Child Labor Law is greatly violated is the garment sector of Bangladesh. Almost 75000 children are working in these sectors who are under 14.[13]


In the 1990s almost 20 million children are found working in different factories in Bangladesh.[14]However, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) there were 6.6 million child labourers in Bangladesh during 1995-96. The more alarming information found from the survey of BBS was that in the year 1995-96 in Bangladesh 19% of the total child population were earning money and their age was between 5-14. Among this 19 percent 11.6 percent were of 5 to 9 years of age and the rest of it was 10 to 14 years of age. The survey also says that 95.6% of the child labourers were employed.[15]

The survey of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 1996 also found that 65.4% children are engaged in agriculture, 8.2% are in manufacturing, and 24.6% in services of them 300,000 children are found working as servants in urban areas.[16]

In 1995 the Ministry of Labour and Manpower and UNICEF conducted a study, entitled “Hazardous Child Labour in Bangladesh.” This study has identified 27 hazardous economic activities where children of Bangladesh are involved. This includes Automobile workshops, Battery recharging shops, Bedding manufacturing, Blacksmith, Brick/ stone crushing, car/furniture/metal spray and painting, prostitution, construction, electric mechanic, engineering workshop, Rickshaw pulling, Tannery factory, Vulcanizing workshop etc.[17]

A second survey was done by BSB in the year 2002-03, the survey says that 7.9 million children are working as labourers. However among them 4.9 million are between the age of 5-14.

Thus we can see that child labor law has been violated in Bangladesh. In most of the economic sectors of Bangladesh we find the violation of child labour law. It can be easily seen that from the year 1995-96 to 2002-3 the child labour has increased. The more the population will increase the more we will find the deprived children are working for their living.



Child Labour Law is basically there to protect the rights of the children. It is there so that the children cannot be forced to work and they can do what they are supposed to do at that age which is of studying in school and enjoying life. But I want to sate the fact that this law is not at all rational in the context of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a country where almost 50% people are living their lives below the poverty line. According to World Bank, right now 38% of the total population of Bangladesh is poor and according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics’ survey almost 10% among those 38% are so poor that they cannot spend more than 554 taka in a month to buy food.  In the year 2005 Brac conducted a survey and found that 54% of this poor people don’t have any land or shelter, 50% cannot have meal twice a day and 70% are working as irregular labourers.[18] So, there is no doubt that the main reason behind child labour in our country is poverty. The population growth rate is still 2.01% which is high. The poor parents of Bangladesh cannot ensure the food, clothing and education for their children. So, they had to let their children to work to get some money. A survey says about 69.4% of the parents here accept child labour to run their family. Because, they don’t have any alternative source of income.[19]Not only that according to CLS reports of 2002-03 81.5% of the children reported that the reason of them working is poverty.[20]

So, as we can see that due to poverty and to earn their basic amenities of life these children are working and there is no short term way to get rid of this poverty. If the law is enforced and we start applying them in our practical life and if we make the children stop working then the money they were earning will not be earned anymore. Their family and they will have nothing to eat. So, where are they supposed to get this money from? Now the question arises that is this child labour law protecting children’s rights in Bangladesh or these laws are too ambitious in the context of Bangladesh?

But it is also true that if we allow these children to work at a very early age then they will have a lot of physical and mental problems. As they often need to work under bad weather and bad working condition they may suffer from various diseases like bronchitis, tuberculosis, skin diseases etc. They may also suffer from malnutrition and mental retardation even. [21]

But, here comes the dilemma. We know the fact that it will harm them both physically and mentally. On the other hand, it also stops them to become literate and their source of living. So, we need to know what measures can be taken in order to practice some realistic law in Bangladesh and also to protect the children of Bangladesh.


After observing the different laws to prohibit child labour and the present condition of the people of Bangladesh I found that some steps should be taken to balance between the law and the reality. The necessary steps can be broadly classified into two measures. They are: A)Short Term Measures and B)Long Term measures

A)Short Term Measures:

o       As a short term measure the age limit of the children can be reduced to 12 to most of the levels of work if possible. Right now in most of the cases it is 14 years of age.

o       The child labourers who are identified as hard-core poor can be provided with some allowance so that they don’t need to work a lot.

o       Their working hours can be reduced.

o       Their working environment can be improved and hazardous elements can be reduced where children are working. If the factories are not ensuring a hazard free environment then they cannot employ children.

o       The government can try to produce a quality work force and train these children and make them an asset. They can provide good training program and education. These children will be sent to abroad in future to earn foreign remittance for our country.

o       There can be arrangement of education or distributing books among the child labourers. So they can also get some light of education and if prefer to study then can do it too.

o       The government will monitor and set a specific income and families earning above that amount cannot send their children to work. The factories and the employer will have to verify it before employing a child.

o       These children should not work in hazardous and risky plants like ship-breaking plant and the other 27 risky economic activities selected by UNICEF.

o       These poor child labourers can be trained to work as sales service people, healthcare services, clerical works etc where there is not much physical effort involved.

B) Long Term Measure:

Under the long term measure I can only come up with one measure which is to get rid of the curse of poverty. For that, we need to generate export and get a higher GDP. We will have to work so that our per capita income increases and the children of our country can get enough food and clothing so that they don’t need to go to work. Their parent instead of sending them to work can send them to schools.


It is evident that the child labour of Bangladesh is increasing day by day and the situation is alarming. I already mentioned that the main reason behind it is poverty. So, we knowing that this is against law are not stopping these children as if they don’t earn this money then they have no other way to get food, shelter, clothing  and the other amenities of life. But, allowing them to work will also hamper their physical and mental health. Moreover, if nations’ children do not go to school and just ruin their childhood in working then our illiteracy problem will never end. So, considering all these I think the child labour in Bangladesh should be allowed in a limited way and off course besides working the employers will have to ensure the education of the children. The employers will have to ensure a hazard free working environment for the children too. For this in context of Bangladesh the law needed to be modified and some new Acts should be enforced. So that the Child Labour Law looks much more practical in the context of Bangladesh and it does not look too ambitious. By doing this we will be able to see a practical law and implications of this law.


1.      Salahuddin , K.(1981) CHILD LABOUR IN BANGLADESH The Early Years, Pilok Publishers & Bangladesh Women Writers Association.

2.      Khair, S. (2005) Child Labour in Bangladesh A forward looking policy study, International Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland.

3.      Selim, N. (2009) Domestic Service in Bangladesh A case study in Dhaka, Kamala Publishers.

4.      Halim, A. (2008) The Bangladesh Labour Code,2006, CCB Foundation.

5.      Kabeer, N et al. (2003) Child Labour and the Right to Education in South Asia NEEDS VERSUS RIGHT? , New Delhi: Sage Publications.

6.      Dhar, N.(2007) LABOUR AND INDUSTRIAL LAW OF BANGLADESH, ReMiSi Publishers.

7.      Srivastava, C. (1984) INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES AND LABOUR MANAGEMENT RELATIONS, India: Print India, Mayapuri, New Delhi.

8.      Jeferson, M. (2000) PRINCIPLES OF EMPLOYMENT LAW, Cavendish Publishing Limited.

9.      Matin, A. (1993) THE CHILDREN’S LAW OF BANGLADESH, Dhaka:Rose Computer & Publications.

10.  Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. (2003) “Report on National Child Labour Survey”.

11.  Mehta & Jaswal (1997) CHILD LABOUR AND THE LAW, New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications.

12.  Diwan, P & Diwan, P. (1996) CHILDREN AND LEGAL PROTECTION, New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications.

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[1] See, Mehta & Jaswal (1997) “ CHILD LABOUR AND THE LAW” p.9

[2] See, Salahuddin , K. (1981) “CHILD LABOUR IN BANGLADESH The Early Years” pp.16-17

[3] Visit http://www.thedailystar.net/law/2004/10/03/index.htm

[4] See Khair, S.(2005) “Child Labour in Bangladesh A forward looking policy study”, p-37.

[5] The Act further provides that children up to the age of 17 years must not be employed in the aforementioned activities unless the periods of works are so fixed as to allow intervals for rest of atleast 7 consecutive hours between 7p.m. and 7a.m.

[6] See Khair, S. (2005) “Child Labour in Bangladesh A forward looking policy study”, pp-37-38.

[7] See Khair, S. (2005) “Child Labour in Bangladesh A forward looking policy study”, P-38.

[8] See khair, S. (2005) “Child Labour in Bangladesh A forward looking policy study”, p-38.

[9] See Khair, S (2005) “Child Labour Bangladesh A forward looking policy study”, pp-38-39.

[10] Visit http://www.thedailystar.net/law/2004/10/03/index.htm

[11] See Blanchet, 1996; Blanchet and Biswas, undated; Shamim, 1993.

[12] See Rahman, 1996; Karmakar, undated.

[13] source:Unicef.org

[14] Visit http://www.bnpbd.com/child-labor-laws.html

[15] See Hossain, Z.M. Child Labour: Trends and Features.

[16] Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 1996, p.49.

[17] Hossain, Z.M. Child Labour: Trends and Features.

[18] See “Prothom Alo” (2010.October 17) “ Daily Star- Brac  Round table meeting”p-7

[19] See Hosen, A., Khandoker H.S.M. and Islam M.M.S. “Child Labour and Child Education in Bangladesh : Issues, Consequences and Involvements.” P-2

[20] See Hosen, A et al. “Child Labour and Child Education in Bangladesh: Issues, Consequences and Involvements.”p-3

[21] See Salahuddin K. “CHILD LABOUR IN BANGLADESH The Early Years” pp.-58-59.