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Country Report


Country by Country

Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka


According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (“BBS”) the number of child labourers was 6.6 million in 1995-1996 . 19 percent of the total child population (5-14 years) was found to be economically active. 11.6 percent of the child labour force belonged to the 5-9 age group and the rest to the 10-14 age group. 95.6 percent of the child labour force was employed. Of the employed child workers, males constituted 59.8 percent and females 40.2 percent. Child workers were scattered all over the country. 17 percent of the child labour force lived in the urban areas and the rest in the rural areas. Child workers were present in almost all the sectors of the economy with the exception of mining and utilities. Agriculture accounted for 65.4 percent of the child workers, followed by services (10.3 percent), manufacturing (8.2 percent) and transport and communication (1.8 percent). Other activities including household work accounted for 14.3 percent of working children.

International legislation
Bangladesh is a signatory to the: 

  • ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182); 
  • ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29); 
  • ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105); 
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

National legislation on child labour and trafficking:

  • the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh (Arts 20, 34);
  • the Code of Criminal Procedure;
  • the Children Act (1974) (art. 44) and the Children Rules (1976);
  • the Bonded Labour Act 2006;
  • the Employment of Children Act, 1938;
  • the Woman and Children Oppression Act, 1995 (amended 2000);
  • the Suppression of Violence against woman and Children Act, 2000;
  • the Compulsory Primary Education Act 1990

Statutes regarding certain sectors:

  • Mines (Mines Act, 1923);
  • Factories (Factories Act, 1965 and The Factories Rules, 1974);
  • Workshops where hazardous work is performed (Employment of Children Act, 1938);
  • Shops and Establishments (Shops and Establishments Act, 1965);
  • Road Transport (Road Transport Worker’s Ordinance, 1961);
  • Tea gardens (Tea Plantation Labour Ordinance, 1962)


In Bangladesh children are reported to work on tea and tobacco plantations (Dhaka) and the fishing industry. The fishing industry is mainly in South-eastern Bangladesh (Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar) and South-western Bangladesh (Chulna). According to the Factories Act, children under the age of 18 are not allowed to work in hazardous work. In addition: the Factories Act prohibits certain sectorial activities: it is prohibited to employ women and children in any part of a factory for pressing cotton in which a cotton-opener is at work.

Minimum age
Bangladesh has not ratified the Minimum Age Convention No. 138 and has not established a uniform age for admission to work. National legislation sets forth minimum ages for employment:

  • Mines (Mines Act, 1923): 15 years (with medical certificate of fitness);
  • Factories (Factories Act, 1965); 14 years (with medical certificate of fitness);
  • Workshops where hazardous work is performed (Employment of Children Act, 1938): 12 years;
  • Shops and Establishments (Shops and Establishments Act, 1965): 12 years;
  • Road transport (Road Transport Worker’s Ordinance, 1961): 18 years;
  • Tea gardens (Tea Plantation Labour Ordinance, 1962): 15 years.

Hazardous work
The legislation does not contain a general prohibition of work likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children under 18 years. The admission to hazardous work is prohibited in abovementioned provisions.

The Employment of Children Act, 1938, prohibits children under 12 years from working in workshops where any of a number of listed processes is carried out. These processes are all hazardous. They include weaving, tanning and the manufacture of bidis, soap, carpets, matches, explosives and fireworks.

The Factories Act prevents children under 14 years of age to work in any factory and prohibits children under 18 years of age from working on dangerous machines without proper instruction on the dangers, and necessary precautions, in addition to training or supervision. 

The Factory Act, 1965, states that hazardous operations for children are:

  • glass manufacturing;
  • grinding or glazing of metals;
  • electrolytic planting;
  • manufacturing, treatment or handling of lead;
  • gas generation from petroleum;
  • cleaning/smoothing articles by jet of sand, metal shot or grit;
  • liming and tanning of raw hides;
  • feeding of jute, hemp or other fibres into softening machines;
  • lifting, stacking, storing and shipping of jute bales;
  • manufacturing, storage or use of cellulose solutions;
  • manufacturing of chromic acid/sodium/potassium/ammonium;
  • printing press/type foundries;
  • pottery;
  • rayon manufacturing.

Forced Labour and Trafficking

Due to a lack of available research, there is little information on the nature and extent of forced/bonded child labour in Bangladesh. All forms of forced labour are prohibited under the Constitution. Unlawful compulsory labour is also an offence under the Penal Code 1860.

Trafficking of children is a significant problem in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a source and transit country for forced labour. Parents sent their children willingly into trafficking situations in hopes that the children will escape poverty. There are several indicators that internal trafficking in Bangladesh is as prevalent as cross-border trafficking. Nevertheless little study has been done on the internal phenomenon.

Child trafficking which includes importing, exporting, buying, selling or taking into possession any child for immoral or unlawful purposes is illegal. The Woman and Children Oppression Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure together form the (national) legislative framework pertaining to human trafficking. Statistics however show that existing laws have not been sufficient instruments against child trafficking.


According to the National Sample Survey Organization the estimated number of child labourers was 13.3 million in 1993-1994 and 8.6 million in 2004-2005. They constituted about 6.2 per cent of children in the age group 5-14 in 1993-1994 and 3.4 per cent in 2004-2005. Nearly 80 per cent of the child worker population is found in agriculture. However: according to a report by UNICEF, the child labour rate in India is 12 per cent, 29 million . As per this figure around 23 million children in India are working in agriculture.

International legislation
India is a signatory to the: 

  • ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29); 
  • ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105); 
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

National legislation on child labour

  • the Constitution of India
  • the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986;
  • the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000;
  • the Minimum Wage Act, 1984;
  • the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976;
  • the Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2008;

Children in India work on plantations producing products such as tea (Assam, West Bengal), coffee, cashew nuts, BT cotton, vegetable seed production, hybrid seeds, rice, tobacco, cardamom, chinchona (quinine), saltpans, sugarcane plantations, natural rubber and in the fish processing industry (Kerala, Ratnagiri), and generally in all of agriculture and allied activities throughout the country. However, no child is permitted to work in any hazardous employment till the age of 18 years as per section 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act.

Minimum Age
The Constitution of India states that no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Art. 24). The Government of India has employed the term ‘child labour’ only in the context of children working in factories or mines of children doing ‘hazardous’ work. According to the Child Labour Act, children who have not completed the age of fourteen years are not allowed to work in any of the occupations set forth in part A of the Schedule or in any workshop wherein any of the processes set forth in Part B of the Schedule is carried in.

Further, Art. 39, requires the State to direct its policy towards ensuring that the tender age of children is not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.

Forced Labour and Trafficking
The majority of bonded child labourers in India are thought to be working in agriculture. Forced labour and trafficking in human beings are prohibited in India as a fundamental right. India is a source, transit and destination country for minors trafficked for commercial exploitation and forced labour in agriculture. The majority of such children are Indians trafficked within the country and even the same state.

Hazardous work
Part A and part B of the Child Labour Act includes occupations and Processes wherein employment of children is prohibited. However, Part A and part B are not applicable to a workshop wherein any process is carried on by the occupier with the aid of his family; any work rendered for its own family is therefore not prohibited.

Besides, u/s 3 of the Act does not prohibit or even regulate the conditions of work in agriculture and cultivation except those ‘processes in agriculture where tractors, threshing and harvesting machines are used and chaff cutting’; sectors where a large number of children are engaged in work are excluded.


Of the 6,225 million children in Nepal, 26,6% - 1,660 million – is in child labour. A very large part of the child labourers is working in agriculture: 94,7% - 1,576 million .

International legislation
Nepal is a signatory to the: 

  • ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182); 
  • ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138); 
  • ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29); 
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

National legislation

  • the Constitution of Nepal, 1990;
  • the Children’s Act, 1992;
  • the Labour Act, 1992, and Labour Rules, 1993;
  • the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1999;
  • the Self Governance Act, 1997
  • the Citizen Rights Act, 1975
  • the Trafficking Control Act, 1986
  • the Kamaiya Labour Prohibition Act, 2001.

In Nepal children are reported working in the food and dairy industry and diverse plantations; tea, seeds, weed, tobacco and sugar cane.

Minimum age
The minimum age of child workers is 14 years.

Hazardous work
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act includes a list of occupations and hazardous work:

“Risky Jobs or Enterprises 
(a) Tourism, housing, motel, hotel, casino, restaurant, bar, pub, resort, skiing, 
gliding, water rafting, cable car complex, pony trekking, trekking, mountaineering, hot air ballooning, para-sailing, gulf course, polo, horse-riding and other enterprises connected with tourism. 
(b) Workshop, laboratory, abattoir, cold storage and other service-oriented enterprises. 
(c) Public transport and construction enterprises. 
(d) Cigarette and bidi manufacturing, carpet weaving and dyeing, wool cleaning, textile weaving, washing, dyeing and printing, leather processing, cement production and packing, production, sale and supply of matches, explosives and other inflammable products, production of beer, liquor and other beverages, production of soaps, bitumen, pulp and paper, slates, pencils, insecticides arid, lubricating oils, collection and processing of garbage, electroplating, photo processing, and functions relating to rubber, synthetic, plastic, lead and mercury, 
(e) Activities relating to the generation, transmission or distribution of energy from water resources, air, solar power, coal, natural oil or gas, bio-gas, and similar other sources. 
(f) Activities relating to the excavation, processing and distribution of mines, minerals, natural oil or gas. 
(g) Rickshaws or pushcarts. 
(h) Functions such as those relating to cutting machines. 
(i) Functions which are to be undertaken underground or under-water or at high altitudes, 
(j) Functions requiring contact with chemical materials, and 
(k) Other risky jobs prescribed under current law.”

Forced Labour and Trafficking
The child labours in agriculture in Nepal are mostly unpaid family workers and partly as forced labour attached to their parents under debt bondage or similar other exploitative labour. Debt bondage is a form of modern slavery. There are two kinds of child bonded labourers in Nepal: Kamaiyas, who are born into a family legacy of bonded labour, and other bonded child labourers, who commonly come from large, landless families (haliya-families). The Kamaiya Labour Prohibition Act, 2002, prohibits bonded labour, frees bonded labourers and extinguishes debt flowing from such arrangements. As a result of this Act, many bonded girls in domestic servitude have been withdrawn and reintegrated with their families. The exact role of children in this system has not 
yet been documented.

Children in Nepal are also exploited through trafficking. Many children are trafficked to India to work in agriculture. Internal trafficking occurs for involuntary servitude as e.g. child domestic workers.


Pakistan counts around 40 million children of which 3,3 million are in child labour. 73% - around 2,4 million children – of the child labour population are employed in agriculture .

International legislation
Pakistan is signatory to the: 

  • ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182); 
  • ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138); 
  • ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29); 
  • ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105); 
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”).

National legislation

  • the Constitution of Pakistan;
  • the Penal Code;
  • the Employment of Children Act (“ECA”), 1991;
  • the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992;
  • the Punjab Compulsory Education Act, 1994;
  • the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (promulgated in 2002). 
  • the National Policy and Plan of Action (“NPPA”);
  • the Labour Policy, 2002;
  • the National Plan of Action for Education for All (“EFA”).


Children are registered to be working in the food industry, family farms and the fishing industry (Northern Pakistan: Rawalpindi).

Minimum Age 
Article 11 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment. However the prohibition against employing children in hazardous labour, and the regulations governing the working conditions of children under 14 do not apply to family run establishments, and schools (training institutes) established, assisted, or organised by the Government.

Hazardous work
During 2001 and 2002 the government of Pakistan carried out a series of consultation of tripartite partners and stakeholders (Labour Department, trade unions, employers and NGO’s) in all the provinces. The objective was to identify the occupations and the categories of work, which may be considered as hazardous (under the provisions of ILO Convention 182). As a result of these deliberations a national consensus list of occupations and categories of work was identified:

  1. Nature of occupation-category of work
  2. Work inside under ground mines over ground quarries, including blasting and assisting in blasting 
  3.  Work with power driven cutting machinery like saws, shears, and guillotines, (Thrashers, fodder cutting machines, also marble)
  4. Work with live electrical wires over 50V
  5. All operation related to leather tanning process e.g. soaking, dehairing, liming chrome tanning, deliming, pickling defleshing, and ink application
  6. Mixing or application of pesticides insecticide/fumigation.
  7. Sandblasting and other work involving exposure to free silica
  8. Work with exposure to ALL toxic, explosive and carcinogenic chemicals e.g. asbestos, benzene, ammonia, chlorine, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, caustic soda, phosphorus, benzidene dyes, isocyanides, carbon tetrachloride, carbon disulphide, epoxy, resins, formaldehyde, metal fumes, heavy metals like nickel, mercury chromium, lead, arsenic, beryllium, fiber glass, and

  9. Work with exposure to cement dust (cement industry)
  10. Work with exposure to coal dust
  11. Manufacture and sale of fireworks explosives
  12. Work at the sites where Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) are filled in cylinders
  13. Work on glass and metal furnaces
  14. Work in the clothes printing, dyeing and finishing sections
  15. Work inside sewer pipelines, pits, storage tanks
  16. Stone crushing
  17. Lifting and carrying of heavy weight specially in transport industry (15b kg and above)
  18. Work between 10 pm to 8 am (Hotel Industry)
  19. Carpet weaving 
  20. Working 2 meter above the floor
  21. All scavenging including hospital waste
  22. Tobacco process (including Niswar) and Manufacturing 
  23. Deep fishing (commercial fishing/ seafood and fish processing
  24. Sheep casing and wool industry
  25. Ship breaking 
  26. Surgical instrument manufacturing specially in vendors workshop
  27. Bangles glass, furnaces

Forced labour and Trafficking
Little data is available on forced/bonded labourers in Pakistan. Under traditional-hari (sharecropper) relationships, children are often expected to contribute to a bonded family’s work by tending livestock, collecting firewood, performing domestic work for the landlord and working alongside family members in the field. All forms of forced labour and traffic in human beings is prohibited. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act abolishes the bonded labour system with immediate effect. It declares all bonded labour free and discharged from any obligation to render any bonded labour, or any form of forced labour, or payment of debts. The Act prohibits any person from extracting labour under forced conditions from anyone. All customs, traditions, or contracts entered into before or after the commencement of the Act, pertaining to forced labour or bonded labour, have been declared void and inoperative.

Children are trafficked within Pakistan for forced labour. The Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance prohibits trafficking of children internationally for exploitive activities. According to the Ordinance human trafficking means recruiting, buying or selling a person, with or without consent, by use of coercion, abduction, or by giving payment or share for such person's transportation, for exploitative entertainment. The Ordinance recognizes that all offences are cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable. The Penal Code prohibits importing, exporting, trafficking or dealing in slaves.


Sri Lanka
There is little data available on the nature and extent of child labour in Sri Lanka.

According to the National Survey on Child Labour, conducted in 1999, 926,037 children living in Sri Lanka are economically active . However, this number includes children who are involved in some form of economic activity while also attending school or some other educational institution. As many as 234,618 of them (nearly 26 per cent) are engaged in an economic activity while not attending school or any other educational institution. It is reported in the survey that 52 per cent (475,531) of all working children are aged under 15 years. Nearly 60 per cent of all working children are reported to be working as agricultural workers.

International legislation
Sri Lanka is a signatory to the: 

  • ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182); 
  • ILO Minimum Age for Employment Convention (No. 138); 
  • ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29); 
  • ILO Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105); 
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

National Legislation

  • the Constitution of Sri Lanka (art. 22);
  • the Penal Code;
  • the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act, 1956 (amendment 2003).
  • Ten Year Development Plan, Mahinda Chinthanaya, 2006;
  • A Youth Employment Policy & National Action Plan.

Children are reported to work on family farms, in the fishing industry (Northwestern and eastern coast of Sri Lanka) and plantation and non-plantation agriculture (f.e. tea plantations).

Minimum age
The minimum age of employment in all sectors is 14 years.

Hazardous work
In art. 22 of the Constitution is stated: ‘a child shall not be employed in any hazardous activity’. Hazardous activity is not defined. Sri Lanka has ratified ILO Convention nr. 182.

Forced Labour and Trafficking
Despite of the fact that Sri Lanka is signatory to the ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29), Sri Lanka has yet to enact a bonded labour law. The Penal Code (Amendment, 2006) prohibits forced labour, debt bondage and all forms of slavery by persons of any age.

Sri Lanka is a source country for children trafficked to Singapore and Middle-East for commercial exploitation and for work as domestic servants. Besides, Sri Lanka is a destination country for the purpose of involuntary servitude. Internal trafficking occurs for int. al. domestic ser vice. 

Accelerating action against child labour, ILO Report 2010

See: Report on conditions of work and promotion of livelihoods in the unorganized sector (New Delhi, National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector, Aug. 2007, p. 100).

Accelerating action against child labour, ILO Report 2010

National Child Labour Survey, 1997

Pakistan FBS, 1996