Development Dialogue

Development Dialogue is a language of contemporary discourses on human development which aims to stimulate each entity of the society for a new history of humanity. It stands for communicating the problems that people face and hence is more value-based than other units of human life. Envisioned with better quality of human life it admires the imagination of ordinary citizens, their daily concerns and necessities and circulate these elements in policy articulation.

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Child labor: The plague of the developing world

Economic exploitation of children is one of the most striking global problems. The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines the term “child labor” as work that deprives children of their childhood and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. Child labor also refers to work that is dangerous and harmful for the child, interferes with education or prevents the child from school attendance. The tremendous harm of child labor is self-evident. Working children do not experience the joy of childhood, instead they have to spend long and tiring hours in dangerous environments: mines, factories, streets or agricultural fields. Most of the working children cannot attend school and that takes away their chances to have more prosperous future. Without education they will have to face poverty throughout the entire life. In general, child labor has a huge negative effect on the economic development, as it prevents children from getting enough skills to build the better future for themselves and for their country.

Elimination of child labor has been on the international agenda for years, but the real  progress  is yet to be achieved in many regions of the world. According to the ILO, there are around 215  millions child laborers worldwide. Nepal  is among  the countries where the percentage of child laborers is the highest. ILO data  shows that   2.6 million children  between the age  of 5 and 14 are working in Nepal. This number accounts for almost ¼ of children of the country. These children are employed in industries, mines, plantations, construction sites and streets.  Many of them are also told to work for household requirements instead of going to school. 

There are many causes behind child labor, but poverty is  the greatest of them all.  Incomes from child labor become an additional source of money  for poor families. When families are in difficult financial situation, they are likely to take back children from school and send them  to work.  Furthermore, children  often  become bonded laborers and work in order  to pay off the debts of their relatives.

There are also  cultural factors  explaining child labor.  For example, in traditional  cultures  there is a strong belief that  girls  do not need formal education, therefore, parents prefer them staying  at home and providing domestic services for the family.   In Nepal only 48.3% of females over 15 years can read and write, while the literacy  level among boys of the same age is 73%. Girls  often are send to work first, if family face hard times, because education of girls is less valued than education of boys. Furthermore,  sometimes children from the early age are expected to help their families and perform work similar to adults, especially if their parents followed the same path.   

The Nepalese government has enacted a number of laws aimed to combat child labor. According to  the Children’s Act 1992,  a child who has not attained the age of 14 shall not be employed in any work as a laborer. The Labor Act 1992 and Labor Rules 1993 again  prohibit  the employment of children under 14 and prohibit employment of youth below 18 years in mining industry. The Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act regulates work  hours of 14-16 years old children.   Kamaiya Labor Prohibition Act, 2001  prohibits forced employment of children to pay off the debt of their families.  The Nepalese government has also  ratified many  international conventions aimed to eliminate  child labor,  including ILO Forced Labor Convention and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  These are all positive steps towards combating child labor in the country. However, the biggest problem is that these laws  are  often not properly enforced and fragile economic situation still  push parents to send their children to work from the early age.

What else is done to fight against child labor? There is also a network of non-governmental organizations and international agencies such as UNICEF working for the elimination of child labor in Nepal.   For example, one of the best known initiatives  is Rugmark Nepal. This organization  inspects  factories in Kathmandu to ensure that they do not employ children and issues certificates  that no child was exploited during production.
However, for a real change, there needs to be a societal mobilization. Laws are not enough to put the end on the exploitation of children.  Combined efforts of  civil society,  international community and government are  needed to solve the problem of child labor. Furthermore, there should be a common understanding in the society  that  child labor   has  a long-term negative effects not only on lives of children, but also on the development of the country. 


Santosh Vargese, “Child Labor in Nepal: Education Combating Unjust Labor”, Youth Advocate Program International Resource Paper, 

Sam Taylor and Sarah Crowe, “One World Day against Child Labor”,

Child labor and responses in South Asia,

Child labor,

CIA World Fact book, Nepal


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