From “Child Labor in Nepal: A Brief Overview” by Jim Flood
• There are 2 million children working in Nepal
• 50% work without pay as family members or bonded labourers
• 42% of 10 to 14 year olds are working rather than attending school
• 62.7% of the male population and only 34.9% of the female population over 15 are able to read and write
• 60% of the child labourers are girls
• Girls work longer hours than boys
• Children comprise 20% of the total workforce (one of the highest proportions in the world)
• 80% of the workforce is employed in agriculture
The main areas of work are:
• Agriculture – planting and harvesting tobacco, maize, tea and rice
• Quarries – carrying and sifting stones
• Brick making – making and carrying bricks
• Mining – both coal and magnetite
• Domestic service – often some distance from their homes
• Construction work – often on dangerous building sites
• Factories – mainly making carpets
• Prostitution – many female sex workers are under the age of 14
Child labor is a huge barrier to education, and it is understandable how basic subsistence takes priority over school attendance. However, lack of education perpetuates the cycle of poverty and therefore is a high hidden long-term cost to the child laborers and their families. There is also a cost to the country, because an educated workforce is essential to support economic growth. Education provides a form of social capital that raises aspirations by making people aware of their situation and by giving them the means to take action to improve it. Economic growth is a key factor in eliminating poverty. If the Nepali economy is to grow, then the government must invest more in education. There is evidence to suggest the quality of education provided is critical to school attendance. Improve the quality of the learning experience, and attendance will improve concomitantly.
Child labor is a systemic problem, resulting from a number of factors that combine to produce an amplified effect. The main factor is poverty. With 45% of the population living on less than $1 per day (and probably much less in rural areas) and unemployment at 42%7, children are the cheapest form of labor and readily available because of a poor education system. Another main factor is a culture amongst the poor that tolerates child labor, and places little value on the benefits of education.
The Government must also carry some blame for failing to implement the laws and protocols it has signed up to. However, the aid given to Nepal ($320 million in 2004) is tied into agreements to implement liberal economic policies that tend to encourage free trade and discourage regulation. This means that Nepal is unable to regulate imports or exports. It is part of a global market that includes large, fast-developing countries like China and India, who still have access to cheap labor. To survive in a world market, the Nepalese government might have little choice but to ignore child labor, in order to maintain a competitive economy.
Posted By Kan Yan
Posted Jul 24th, 2009