Move to free transport sector from child labour

MUNIMA SULTANA | Monday, 27 September 2021

A move has been taken to free the transport sector from child labour, as a large number of children below 18 years work in automobile workshops, public transports and water-vessels, making it one of the topmost health hazardous sectors in the country.

The move is also a part of the government's target to eradicate child labour from 38 hazardous sectors in the country by 2025 for ensuring its graduation to a middle-income country.

Sources said the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges (MoRTB) in principle agreed to work in this regard after a meeting with the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) recently.

They said the thematic group also decided to sit with all stakeholders as early as possible to sensitise them.

"Intention of the sharing is to incorporate the issue in various policies and planning, so that the sector players feel discouraged to engage children in the sectors, particularly in the form of labourer," said an official.

Bangladesh is committed to eliminating the worse forms of child labour under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 after ratifying it on March 12, 2001. Though it is yet to ratify the Convention 138, which is on the minimum age limit of labour, 18 years of age is limited for the transport sector.

Mohammad Mustafizur Rahman, joint inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment (DIFE) under the MoLE, said due to lack of data on child labourers in the transport sector, sector-specific steps could not be launched.

Citing a survey of the DIFE - conducted in 2018, he said the transport sector has already been identified as a highly risky sector for children.

The survey identified 1,746 children working in 1,269 factories including engineering workshops, automobile workshops or lathe machines, jute mills, units making gold or imitation jewelleries or bangles, and vulcanizing units.

Mr Rahman said any programme for the sector can be taken after having necessary data on child labourers, as their rehabilitation and proper training-related programmes are also necessary for the eradication of such labour.

According to the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, the labour provided by a child would be known as 'child labour', defining the 'child' and the 'adolescent' on the basis of age.

As per Section 2(8) of the Act, a person - who has attained the age of 14 but is below the age of 18 - is considered to be an 'adolescent', and as per Section 2(63), a person not attaining the age of 14 is defined as a 'child'.

The DIFE claimed that 1,132 child labourers have been withdrawn from 824 factories in five sectors. But Mr Rahman said the survey does not have specific data on the transport sector.

Labour expert T I M Nurun Nabi Khan said to launch sector-specific programmes, the definition of formal and informal sectors needs to be fixed first, as transport is considered both as formal and informal sectors.

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