While child labour has been criminalised in Bangladesh, the social structures are such that engaging children in the labour force is commonplace. The findings from survey titled “Child labour eradication in risky works in Bangladesh (3rd phase)” conducted by the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the Ministry of Planning, therefore, are not surprising.
The impact evaluation survey indicated that a staggering 81 percent of children are engaged in risky works to add to the incomes of their families. Around 60 percent of the children work during daytime while 40 percent children work during daytime and nighttime despite the Shishu Ain, 2013 prohibiting it. Under the Shishu Ain, 2013 exploitation of children is a legal offence punishable with imprisonment for up to two years or a fine of up to Tk 50,000 or both. While the Act is not clear on what counts as exploitation, there should be no doubt that letting children engage in work in hazardous situations is not acceptable.
This demonstrates that it is not enough to have legal structures in place. Around 15 percent of the child workers who participated in the study said they are engaged in works on their guardians' interest while 10 percent of the children are at work as they are not enrolled in any school. Therefore, we must take into account economic and social structures that propagate this situation.
In an ideal world, children would be allowed to play, learn and grow. It is disheartening to see that Bangladesh is so far from seeing this ideal. It is time to consider the matter of child labour with the seriousness it deserves.