Bangaldesh is one of the poorest countries in the world and due to the fact that it is also one of the most overpopulated ones, it suffers from chronic conditions of excessive poverty and injustice. Obviously, there is a considerable labour force in this densely populated country and there is also a large percentage of this coming from child labour. This is actually illegal in the country but up till 1992 there were over 70,000 children under the age of 14 working in garment factories across the country (UNICEF 2010) but in that same year, the US banned importantion of products manufactured by child labour. This had the unfortunate result of several thousand children losing their job and ending up in the streets begging or in other mostly unsuitbale industries such as industrial factories and quarries where their labour was required. The garment industry still clandestinely employs tens of thousands of children in the country and with low wages and horrendous working conditions, the situation does not seem to be improving at all.
Multinational companies such as Nike, Reebok and others have large factories in Bangladesh where the average labourer is paid less than a dollar a day. This obviously enables them to employ thousands of ill paid workers in slave like conditions although the latter have improved of late after several investigations were conducted into the opeartions of such companies. Although as stated, child labour is illegal in Bangladesh, the vast majority of families send their children to work at an early age due to the dire economic conditions of the country and more often than not, they find themselves in the garment industry. The governemnt does not really enforce any rules or regulations regarding the control of child labour so companies practically have a free hand in emplying who and what they want.
Suffering of children
The conditions in these sweatshops are obviously rather grim and terrible. Children are made to work excessively long hours without any sort of breaks and are fed subsistence food in certain places. Some factories also employ living quarters on site so these children are far away from their families for long periods of time. Safety at work is another issue as most of the time this is not enforced at all (UNICEF 2011).
Solutions to the situation – the way forward
In such countries, the only real solution is education. Children should be provided with a decent and affordable education from early years and not be sent to work in these sweatshop factories for a pittance. Government should begin investing heavily in education and build schools especially in rural areas where problems of chronic illiteracy and ignorance persist. There should also be a serious crackdown on illegal child labour emplyment and countries who import from Bangaldesh should ascertain that the products they get are free of child labour as more often than not these turn a blind eye to such situations.
Conclusion – a concerted effort:
Bangaldesh continues to face considerable social and economic challenges as a country and it is also crucial that it is assisted materially and financially by other countries (Lewis 2011). Government should attract other companies through foreign direct investment and embark on a vast educational and social programme to dig the majority of the population out of poverty.
Child Labour in Bangladesh; United Nations Development Programme http://www.bdix.net/sdnbd_org/world_env_day/2001/sdnpweb/sdi/international_day/childrens_day/bd&childlabor.htm
Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse; UNICEF
Lewis D (2011); Bangladesh: Politics, Economy and Civil Society, Cambridge University Press