Child workers work far beyond the time and day limits set by the [Bhutan’s] Labour and Employment Act, according to a study conducted by National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC).
The child labour study, which was conducted by sampling 650 child labourers between 6 and 14 years of age from six dzongkhags – two each from three regions – in the country, found that 37 percent of the children worked between eight and a half hours to 12 hours, and 20 percent worked for more than 12 hours a day. Eighty-nine percent of them started work before 8 am.
Ninety-three percent of children worked for six days a week, with majority of them in the agriculture and service sector reportedly working seven days a week, the study revealed.
Kesang, 13, from Trashigang, works as a domestic helper in Thimphu. “I work the whole day, even at night sometimes,” she said.
Similarly, Karna, 14, from Sarpang, who works in a workshop at Olarongchu in Thimphu, said he went to work at 7 am and returned home at 7 pm. Some 14.3 percent of the children surveyed were below the minimum age of 13 years qualifying them as child labourers.
Ninety percent of the children did not attend schools, according to the study, and the most common reason stated was poverty, family break-up and census problems.
Diverging from common thinking, the study found out that majority of the child labourers were reportedly happy in their profession and had not experienced any hardships or inconveniences. However, most regretted not having completed school and missing out the opportunity of availing a better job.
Most children were found working in service sectors (domestic helpers, hotels) and the agriculture sector. None of the sectors paid the children according to the prescribed daily minimum wage, the study found out.
The average salary for a month, according to their age, ranged from Nu 685 for children less than 10 years of age, Nu 1,238 for those between 10 and 15 years and Nu 2,078 for 15 to 18 years of age.
Most of the children were employed in the industry and services sector by a middleman.
In the agriculture sector, children took up farming mainly to help their families in the absence of adequate farm hands.
There were only a few cases where children actually went to seek employment in agriculture. Bhutan is not a member of the International Labour Organization and has not ratified the minimum age and the worst forms of child labour which protects children against child labour.
NCWC is the lead agency that works to promote and protect children and women in the country.
By Tandin Pem
Source: Bhutan Observer