A marked absence of a comprehensive and coordinated inter-ministerial mechanism is the reason why the national plan to eliminate child labour has yet to be properly implemented, speakers said at an event yesterday.
Speakers made the observation at a discussion on Elimination of Hazardous Child Labour through the Implementation of NPA, which was held at the CIRDAP auditorium in the capital.
NPA, or National Plan of Action 2012-2016, was prepared by the Ministry of Labour and Employment aiming to implement the National Child Labour Elimination Policy 2010.
The Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum organised the event with the support of Islamic Relief Bangladesh and Terre des Hommes Netherlands, an international organisation focusing on children’s rights.
Addressing the event as the chief guest, Mikail Shipar, secretary at the ministry, said: “We accept our faults in implementing the action. Child labour is a vast sector; we need to collaborate with the NGOs to eradicate it. More than 50 per cent of child labour in the country occurs in the informal sector, which is why it is not addressed.”
The informal sector is the part of an economy that does not pay taxes, and is not directed or monitored by any government entity.
The secretary also said: “We are no longer in a situation to wait. We have already completed the third phase of our child labour elimination project.”
The list of hazardous child labour in Bangladesh was published by the government through Bangladesh Gazette on March 10 last year by dint of Bangladesh Labour Act 2006. The list highlights 38 occupations including ship breaking, leather manufacturing, construction and automobile repairs.
However, jobs like agricultural activities, mining and quarrying, domestic work, carrying firearms and explosives, etc have not been included in the list.
“There is a way to amend the list. However, whether we succeed to properly address the listed occupations remains to be seen,” Mikail said.
Dr Mohammad Nazmuzzaman Bhuian, associate professor at the law department of Dhaka University, said: “Both the national and international non-government development organisations are implementing a number of projects to eliminate child labour, but lack of coordination and cooperation is visible.”
He said though the NPA confirms the establishment of District Child Rights Monitoring Forums, committees at the upazila level is essential to complete the monitoring and evaluation framework, and effective national child labour welfare council should be immediately established in the divisional level.
“The Child Labour Unit at the ministry is now defunct. No step has been taken to regulate child labour in the informal sector. So, a legal reform is a must to implement the plan,” Nazmuzzaman said.
Agreeing that the policies should be reviewed to make them comprehensive, the speakers said trade unions could play an important role in reducing child labour in formal sector, but the employer’s organisations can contribute effectively in both the formal and informal sectors by not employing children in hazardous jobs.
However, Mahmudul Kabir, country director of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, said the primary responsibilities lay with the government.
“The government should take necessary steps to remove the implementation snags through a well-established and accepted monitoring and evaluation system for both the government agencies and other organisations,” he said.
Among others, Abdus Shahid Mahmood, director of the Shishu Adhikar Forum, and Mainuddin Ahmed, acting head of Health, Education and Child Welfare Programme at Islamic Relief Bangladesh, were also present at the event.