Child labor is unacceptable in most parts of the world, and it is a vice that organizations in collaboration with governments try to eliminate. This is because when children are subjected to excessive work at a young age, they are denied the right to education, play, and leisure. Bangladesh is one of the countries where child labor is rampant. According to the International Labor Organization and UNICEF, child domestic workers in Bangladesh are around half a million while the percentage of children aged 5-14 involved in child labor in 2006 stood at 4.3%. Such statistics show that child labor in Bangladesh is a deep-rooted problem the government has struggled to deal with despite policies such as free education and legal protection from employment for children under the age of 14. It can be argued that by eliminating poverty in Bangladesh child labor will also be eliminated.
Poverty is a big issue in Bangladesh; a country where as of the year 2010, 31.5% of the population lived below the poverty line (Asian Development Bank). A vicious cycle of poverty in the country is the main cause of child labor. Child labor in the country is not out of willingness or likeness but is instead a dire necessity. Extreme poverty means children have to go out there and work in industries and other informal to get an extra coin and support their families. For most families, it is almost impossible for basic household needs to be met by the parents alone. This then makes money, and not education, an immediate necessity. Additionally, even in situations where children stay in school and climb up the ladder of education, there comes a time when school fees become unaffordable for most families. This then prompts children to drop out and look for employment be it formal or informal.
According to an article by Mark Nonkes where he interviewed a 15-year-old girl working in a garment factory in Bangladesh, a sick father and extreme poverty is what forced her and her sister to formal employment when she was only 12 years. This is a situation familiar to most families in Bangladesh. The need to break the transmission of poverty from generation to generation forces children to make an early entry into employment (Bain). Due to the lack of polished skills and work experience, these children find themselves stuck in low paying jobs. This then leaves them in a vicious cycle of poverty as opposed to improved standards of living as they hoped for when they first joined formal employment. Worse still, is that these children especially those in the informal sector are exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation.
Although it is a leading cause of child labor in Bangladesh, poverty alone does not explain the problem holistically. Some critics argue that social norm and not poverty is the cause of high rates of child labor in Bangladesh. The argument suggests that a negative community attitude towards education and schooling coupled with general acceptance of child labor is what causes rampant child labor. While this might be true, it can also be argued that a person’s attitude towards education is dependent on their experiences and those around them on the benefits of education. Those that fail to find meaning in school and education are probably those that failed to go through the full curriculum. This, therefore, debunks the argument that social norms and not poverty are to blame for high rates of child labor in Bangladesh. It is therefore only by eliminating poverty that child labor will be eliminated as well. Changing societal norms is a drop in the ocean. Poverty is the dragon that bore child labor and therefore only by slaying this dragon of poverty will child labor be eliminated. When poverty is done away with, even societal norms will change automatically.
- Bain, Marc. “Researchers Have Identified A Very Simple, Universal Solution To Child Labor’S Vicious Cycle Of Poverty.” Quartz. N.p., 2016. Web. 2 Dec. 2017.
- “Findings On The Worst Forms Of Child Labor – Bangladesh.” United States Department of Labor. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Dec. 2017.
- Nonkes, Mark. “A Look At Child Labor Inside A Garment Factory In Bangladesh | World Vision.” World Vision. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Dec. 2017.
- “Poverty In Bangladesh.” Asian Development Bank. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Dec. 2017.
- “UNICEF Bangladesh – The Children – Child Labour.” Unicef.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Dec. 2017.