KATHMANDU, JANUARY 29
A new survey on “Employment Relationship in the Brick Industry in Nepal” reveals important information on forced labor, bonded labor and child labor in the sector.
The report, published at the same time as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, calls for a concerted effort by all key stakeholders – government, employers and industry workers – to work for a decent work agenda in the country’s brick and tile industry .
While Nepal has made great strides in combating traditional debt bondage practices, new evidence gathered from the survey conducted jointly by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF ) indicates that the labor is bound. There is forced labor in the country’s private sector, including the brick and tile industry.
The survey shows the prevalence of labor exploitation with 6,229 (3.5 percent) forced laborers among the 176,373 workers in the brick kilns (including family members). An estimated 34,593 children (between the ages of five and 17) live in brick kilns. Children make up approximately 10 percent (17,738) of all workers, and 96 percent of those working children (17,032) were child labor.
“The study, unique in Nepal, highlighted the important findings on the child labor situation in the brick kiln industry, which would make a significant contribution to the monitoring of child labor policies and programs implemented by the Nepalese government.” Nebin Lal Shrestha, Director General of CBS , was quoted in a media release.
The investigation also found that migrant workers make up a high proportion of workers in the brick kilns: only 22 percent of all workers originally come from the same district in which the kiln is located. 32 percent of the workers come from other districts of Nepal and 46 percent of the workers have emigrated from India. Rolpa, Rautahat, Dang, Kailali, and Sarlahi are the top five source districts of Nepalese brick kiln workers who supply nearly 46 percent of the workers in various kilns across the country.
“The report highlights key statistics on decent work deficits that lead to forced and child labor situations in Nepal. The challenges of addressing these deficits are many. However, the ILO Nepal is committed to supporting the government and development partners through its programs of implementing preventive and responsive measures, “said Richard Howard, director of the ILO country office for Nepal.
Regarding the payment modalities, more than three quarters (75.7 percent) of the employees receive an advance payment from the Naikes (contractors) and 3.5 percent directly from the employers. The prepayments, for which there is no clarity about the repayment, usually become debt for the following years, which increases the vulnerability to forced labor.
Illiteracy proved to be an important vulnerability to child and forced labor.
This could have a direct impact on the awareness of workers and employers of labor laws and regulations. The survey found that only four percent of workers knew the current minimum wage rate. Four percent state that they know labor law or the work rules.
There is almost no membership in trade unions.
The employers’ knowledge of the legal framework is more common: 66 percent of employers know the labor law; 42 percent of the animal law; 88 percent of child labor; and 63 percent of the Safety and Health Act.
“As the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor begins, this report reminds us of the critical need to step up concerted action to eradicate the worst forms of child labor in all sectors of society. These new discoveries will inform and guide government policy-makers, stakeholders The brick kiln industry and development actors in their joint measures to combat the economic exploitation of children and their families, “said Elke Wisch, representative of UNICEF Nepal.
“We must work together to ensure that the cost of making building materials is not borne by the children of Nepal.”