Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme (GPIP), Overseas Development Institute (ODI);Save the Children UK
Maria Quattri;Kevin Watkins
Bangladesh has registered extraordinary advances in education, notably on access and gender equity. Yet, while the country is nearing universal primary school enrolment, drop-out rates remain high – and learning levels are poor. Urbanisation, one of the engines of Bangladesh’s development, has gone hand-in-hand with the rapid growth of urban slums, where child labour is rife.This paper describes the results of a unique, large-scale representative survey into the relationship between child labour and education in slums of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The survey covers 2700 households drawn from a listing of 4500, with children and their parents responding to a detailed questionnaire.We report a number of findings that differ from those emerged from previous research and national surveys. First, there is a high work incidence among children aged 6–14, with an average rate of 15% reported across our survey sites. Second, in contrast to previous studies, the overwhelming majority of working children are out-of-school. Third, almost all working children are involved in what both International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions and national legislation would categorise as child labour, with hazardous work figuring prominently. Fourth, the ready-made garments sector appears to be a major employer of children, accounting for two thirds of female child labour.The education system contributes to the child labour problem by creating a ‘supply’ of potential recruits. Late entry to school, grade repetition and poor-quality education all serve to push children out of education and into employment.One of the take-home messages of this research is that Bangladesh will not achieve the 2030 development goals on education without strengthened commitment to eradicate child labour; and the country will not eradicate child labour without making education compulsory and free for the 6–14 age group.