Words worth said, ‘Child is the father nation’. Yes, today’s child is tomorrow’s leader. Children are the assets, and a nation gets handsome dividends when it invests most in them.
But! what we are observing today is very pathetic. The most destructive and injurious to the children is child labour. The children aged below 14 constitute the half of the total population of the world. Over 250 million children around the world work and many of them are at risk from hazardous and exploitative labour (UNICEF 1997). The so-called industrialized or capitalist countries employed children in their factory for their rapid production with a minimum wage. The Janakantha on November 28, 1997 says that 65 million of children all over the world work is most unfavorable condition whose daily income is not more than one dollar.
The children in Bangladesh start working very early. In villages, the boys work in the fields with their fathers and uncles. The girls begin to work as early as 5 or 6 years. The girls help their mothers in the kitchen.
Domestic workers cook our food, clean houses and wash clothes in the households where they work. They also grind the masalas, make our beds and put up the mosquito nets. In some homes, They iron clothes, wash our cars and carry our babies. “They call US Shaheb and Bibi Shaheb. Web call them domestic help, servant and kajer lok. (The Daily Star Weekend, 18 October 1996).
In almost all countries, including Bangladesh, legislation exists concerning the minimum age for admission to employment, services and other activities. In Bangladesh, the minimum age for employment is 14 years and the minimum age for hazardous work is 18 years. On the other hands, it is the lack of enforcement of the law that allows child labour to persist. Where the majority of the children work, the enforcement of legislation, if any, also difficult.
The major objective of the study is to analyze the prevailing socio-psychological situation related to the child female domestic servants working in different residential areas of Dhaka.
Thus the specific objective are-
– to explore the socio-economic background of the girl domestic maids.
– to identify the reasons for accepting the profession by female children.
– to focus on the different types of abuses by the employers on the child domestic maid servants.
Child labour is not only a national issue, it is a global concern. Great portion of girl children who are working as domestic helps are invisible because they are out of interaction with the common people. They do not get proper attentions, as most of them are girls. So, the major obstacle to developing a policy for the benefit of the working children on the total number and situation. So, I do hope, my study will help to fulfill the gap a little at least.
Scope of the study:
The scope of a study is more or less determined by the objective we already taken, we cannot focus or all relevant affairs for our limited time and resources. So, the main focal point of this study is to explore the nature of domestic setting of the child maid and their physical and oral abuses by their employers within Dhaka metropolitan.
It would not be possible to make any generalization on the subject for the study is limited to only some selected areas of Dhaka city. In some cases we were not allowed to interview the maid since this would reveal certain unacceptable behavior patterns of the employer’s. The respondent were scared to answer sensitive questions because of being further to lose their job. More over, limited time and money also effected my study 1.5 literature review.
Rowshan Ara Rahman in her paper, child labour in Bangladesh (1983), observed that child labour in Bangladesh is a necessity in our country. In a country where 85% of the people live below poverty level and the job opportunities are so meager, the child labour has significant contribution in the form of augmenting the family income.
Ishrat Samim, in her paper child exploitation in cigarette factories (1993), concludes that child labour is indispensable to their poor parents in Bangladesh. She showed that 67.35% of the worker start working at the ages between 8 to 10 years. 73.47% of the child works 7 to 8 hours a day.
A report based on UNICEF (1991), on Elimination of Child labour reveled that unemployment of adult family members leads children to work. The study also stated some economic implications of child labour – economic of child labour, education and children out of school, working conditions and health.
Different studies have been conducted on the different aspect of child labour in Bangladesh.
Khaleda Salauddin undertook a study named Aspect of child labour in Bangladesh. She explored the different aspect of child labour is the urban and rural economy. Her study work is mainly based on the patter of child labor both boys and girls in both the formal and informal sectors. She showed about 19% of the girls and 76% of the boys had identified their families impoverished conditions leading them to take up the job of domestics. Majority of the child household workers fell within the age group of 11-13 years both for girls (38%) and boys (396%).
Ahmed and Quasem (1991) carried out a study in four selected slum areas of Dhaka city. The study findings show that 70% of the girls work mostly of home while 54% of the boys worked out side. The average monthly income of the child workers was Taka 450 and they, on an average, work for 10 hours per day.
This section has been basically described the methodology of the study which includes source of data, sample design, study area, data collection and processing.
Different strategies can be applied for gathering data to conduct a research. I have collected data from the field through the survey method. The data for the study have been collected both from primary and secondary sources.
The sample are selected from Azimpur, Lalbagh, Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur and Mirpur.
If the target group is illiterate, interview or observation is the best technique to collect data. I followed interview technique. Two sets of instruments had been designed one for the maid servants and other for the employers.
Protesting was carried out in 5 households. On the basis of result of the pretest and the experience shared from field, questions were finalized. The selection of the sample respondents had been made through purposive sampling.
Data analysis and report writing:
After the collection of the data, it was tabulated and analyzed. Then, a report was written.
Definition of child labour:
According to ILO definition, who are not physically and mentally fit for working and that work is injurious to health and their age is below 18 are called child labours.
According to the New Encyclopedia Britannica, “Child labour is the employment of children of less than a specified legal age.” (The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol.3, 1993: 320)
Shrestra mentioned, Child labour, in a restricted sense, means the employment of children in gainful occupations which are injurious to their health and deny them the opportunities of development.” (Shrestra, 1974:3)
Finally, from these definitions, the entrance into work before IS is prohibited nationally and internationally. The labour that hinders the mental, physical, social and moral development of a child may be called child labour.
Causes of child labour:
Most children who work do not have the power of free choice. They are not choosing between career options with varying advantages, draw back and levels of pay.
There are different causes that force the children to work at very early age.
Ishrat Shamim and others indicate five major causes of child labour: These are-
- Lack of social facilities,
- Lack of social security,
- Increasing populations,
- Large river bank erosion,
- Natural disasters like cyclones and tidal surges leading families to destitution and landless. (Shamim & other 1995:3).
UNICEF in its report the state of the worlds children 1997 mentions three factors of child labour-
- The exploitation of poverty.
- The absence of education.
- The restrictions of tradition.
Forms or types of child labour:
The many manifestations of child labour can be brown down into seven main types these are-
- Domestic service
- Forced and Bonded labour
- Commercial sexual exploitation
- Industrial and plantation work
- Street work
- Work for the family
- Girls work
Presentation and Analysis of Resources Chill Labour in Bangladesh:
Children are the future of the world still they are often neglected and exploited in the society. It is a matter of great concern that a big number of children at this moment are deprived of food, health, education and shelter.
ILO conference 1997 expresses great concern that the number of child labourer in world reached 250 million (ILO-UNICEF Report 1997).
Of total of 6.3 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 economically active in our country that is 19% of the total 34.5 million children in this age group and 12% of the labour force. The following table shows the gender wise percentage of child laboures and the total:
Table 5.1 The distribution of Child Labourers by sex
15.2 (1059 lakh)
20.2 (52.3 lakh)
19.1 (62.98 lakh)
Source: BBS Report, 1996.Among them 65.4% are working in the agricultural sector, 8.2% in the manufacturing sector, 10.3% in other sectors and 14.3% in household work and other areas. About 17% child workers in the country home to work for 15 to 19 hours a day followed by 65% for 9 to 14 hours. ILO-IPEC and UNICEF conducted a rapid assessment study on child labour situation in Bangladesh in 1997 entitled Child Labour Situation in Bangladesh: A Rapid Assessment (Dr. Wahidur Rahman showed that 14% child labourers work for 5 to 8 hours everyday while 4% 1 to 4 hours as part-timers.
The children were found to do almost all kinds all kinds of job that adults do. In urban areas, the children are involved in approximately 300 types of economic activities while the number is 90 in rural areas (Dr. Wahidur Rahman).
The study found 63 million children of ages between 5 and 14 are working. Among them 83.19% were found in the rural areas and the remaining 60.81% were in the urban areas. Only 4% of them were in the formal sectors and 96% were in the informal sectors.
About 48% working children never attended school, 43% ended school earlier and 9% of them continued to attend school or some form of education provided by the NGO. 74% of them are interested to enroll in school (ILO-UNICEF Survey-1997).
Some of the children start work even at the age of 5 years. This cruel reality affects their health and mind and also affects our society in the long run. Because these children are not getting good education and health care for preparing themselves to take the responsibilities of the society.
2 Demographics characteristics
In choosing the respondents of the study, female domestic maid servants, below the age of eighteen were considered. This was done in conformity of the ILO, UNICEF and Government of Bangladesh declaration.
In total 50 respondents were selected purposively within the age group of 5 year to 18 years. Below in Figure 6.11 the age clarification of selected respondents is presented.
In the above Figure, it is observable that majority of the respondents belong to the age group of 15 to 18 years (44%) while 34% of the respondents were in the age group between 5 to 10. The rest of teh respondents fell within 10 to 15 years (255).
It has been observed in many studies that girl children get tow priority in education than the boy children. The present study also supports this finding though it is confined only to the maid servants. Many of the girls (34%) in this study started going to primary school. They had to leave school before completing the years of primary education.
Table 2. Child maid servants by level of education
Level of Education
|Can read & write||10||20|
Background of the child maid servants
Some children have lost their fathers or mothers. 29% of the respondents have lost their fathers, 24% mothers and 5% have lost both fathers and mothers.
Occupational pattern of the maid servants parents
Table 4 Parental occupation of the child maid servants
|Rickshaw Puller/ Van Driver|
Child maid servants brothers and sisters
Average number of brothers and sisters of child maid servants was about six, 64% of the respondents and more than eight brothers and sisters. It was observed from the study that the larger the family size was one of the causes to put the vulnerable children into work.
Child maid servants homestead
A significant number of child maid servants had their own hooses while the others did not have their own houses or destroyed by the river bank erosion. 72% of the maidservants had their own houses in their village, other did not have any. But the study reveals that many lived in the city slum areas though some o them had their own shelter.
Cultivable land of the child maid servants families
A negligible number of families (30%) of child maid servants had cultivable land though the child maid servants were not able to provide any information or correct information on the amount of land. Most of them did not know the unit of measurement of land though some of them heard about Bigha, Katha, etc.
The ways of choosing this professing
Figure 8 shows that a few of eight children (16%) chose this profession by themselves to avoid large family chores. The family was not able to feed them. 75% of the respondents who chose the profession by themselves took this profession as it provide a homely atmosphere.
Child maid servants satisfaction level
It was surprising that the most of the child maid servants were satisfied with their present employment. Figure 9 shows that 84% of the child maid servants were happy with their present work situation and their relationship with employees was good.
It seems that these figures are misleading because of the interview situation where the child maid servants seemed to have hesitated to speak the truth in front of their employers.
Duration of present employment
Table 10. Child maid servants by duration of present employment
|Duration of present employment|
|Below 6 months|
|3 years & over|
Terms and condition of employment
Table 11 Child maid servants by the Terms and condition of employment
|Duration of present employment|
|Food and clothing|
|Food, clothing & salary|
It is very interesting feature shown in the table 11 that most of the domestic helpers in this study got food, clothing and salary. Not single evidence was found who got only food for work while 24% of the maid servants worked without any cash payment, but they got food and clothing. It was observation in the study that all the maid servants were provided with clothing, but they received that clothing which were previously used by the employer’s siblings. Some who were very lucky were decorated themselves with new clothes on the occasion once a year or once in two years.
Income level of the child maid servants
Table 12 Child maid servants by their monthly income
|Above – 300|
Present condition of their study
Figure 13 shows that 72% of the child maid servants were not involved in any way in the study whereas 28% were studying. It is found in the observation that those employers, who are highly educated and are aware of the child right and the value of education, were teaching their maid servants basic education as signature, ordinary calculation. Other employers though that this process of studying would minimize their working hours.
Misbehaviour with the child maid servants
It is evident from the figure 14 that a great number of child maid servants usually did not experience any act of violence in the hands of employers. 42% of the maid servants stated that they did not have experience of any type of violence while 58% child suffered either verbal or physical maltreatmen.
Table 15 Child maid servants by the types of violence they suffered
|Types of violence|
The most common types of violence usually inflicted on the maid servants (89.66%) were verbal abuse in the form of calling names, shouting, complaining and finding faults, use of insulting and filthy language, obscene words, or cursing (Table 15). 10.34% of the maid servants stated that they were the victims of physical abuse such as slapping etc. No girl child stated they were sexually violated.
Table 16 Child maid servants by the persons who maid have with her*
Persons who misbehave
The mad servants stated that they never made any complain for the misbehaviour or maltreatment because they thought that it would not produce any result or they got justice. Moreover, there was a great possibility of being further abused by the alleged members of the family.
Daily work performed by the child maid servants
Table 17 Chile maid servants by their daily work
Types of work
|Cleaning household items|
|Fetching water for the family|
|Tanking kids to the school & play ground|
Answer in more than one category
A child domestic usually assigned numbers types of tasks. Majority of the households, especially smaller families, keeps only children, either girl or boy. Sometimes such a family keeps more than one domestic to carry out all the domestic chores.
Profile of employers
Table 18 Occupation of employers
Table 18 Child maid servants employers by their occupation
Types of Occupation
Service and business were two most dominating occupation of the household head. Among them 40% were service holders and 34% engaged in business. The occupation of 10% employers was teaching and 10% was retired officers. The less dominating occupation were physician, lawyer, etc.
Income of employers
Table 19 Child maid servants employer by their income
Monthly income (Taka)
Child Maid servants employers
|Less than 5,000|
Table 20 Employers by the number of maid servants they kept
Number of maid servants
Table 20 show that among the employers majority (64%) had 2 maid servants, one minor in age and other aged. The rest (36%) had only one maid servant.
Child Labour in Dhaka City
2 Demographics characteristics
2 Background of the child maid servants
3. Parent information
4. Occupational pattern of the maid servants parents:
5. Child maid servants Brothers and sisters:
6. Child maid servants Homestead:
7. Cultivatable land of the child maid servants families:
2 Employment of the child maid servants
8. The ways of choosing this profession:
9. Child maid servants satisfaction level.
10. Duration of present employment:
11. Terms and conditions of employment:
12. Income level of the child maid servants:
13. Present condition of their study:
14. Misbehavior with the child maid servants
15. Child maid servants by the types of violence they suffered:
16. Child maid servants by the person who misbehave with her.
17. Daily work performed by them:
2 Profile of employers
18. Occupation of employers:
19. Income of employers:
20. Employers by the number of maid servants they kept
Elimination of child labour:
The follow steps can be taken to eliminate child labour:
- A new convention of child labour.
- Time bound programme of action to eliminate child labour.
- Immediate suppression of extreme forms of child labour.
- Prohibition of work for the very young (under 12 or 13 years) and special protection for girls.
- Rehabilitation to ensure permanent removed from hazardous work.
- Preventive measures.
- Designation of national authority responsible for the child.
- Making crime against a child anywhere a crime every where.
- Increase financial aid to fight against child labour.
- The compulsory primary education program will have to be effective.
What we can are taking steps to reduce the exploitative nature of child domestic work and providing them the opportunity to attain the minimum level of education and skill development for better employment in future.
1. Ahmed, A and M.A Quasem – Child labour in Bangladesh. (Sweden University of Lund, 1985)
2. Burra, Neera – Borr to work: Child labour in Inida. (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995)
3. Salauddin, K- Aspect of the child labour in Bangladesh. (Dhaka: Women for women, 1981)
4. Shamim, I. et – Child Domestic work at Dhaka city: A study of Exploitative situation (Dhaka: save the children Australia & Auti-slavery International London, 1995)
5. Shrestra, J. C – Child Labour in India (New Delhi: Ashing publishing house, 1978).
6. Rahman, H- Situation of the child Domestic servants (Dhaka: UNICEF, 1992)
7. UNICEF – The state of the worlds children (New York, 1996 & 1997)