Child labour and education: a survey of slum settlements in Dhaka

Research reports and studies
December 2016
Maria Quattri and Kevin Watkins

Urbanisation has powered Bangladesh’s development. But it has gone hand-in-hand with the rapid growth of urban slums marked by high levels of poverty and low levels of service provision. In these slums, child labour is rife.

Child labour and education: a survey of slum settlements in Dhaka presents findings from one of the largest surveys on child work and education conducted in Bangladesh. ODI research found that 15% of 6 to 14-year-old children in Dhaka's slums were out of school and engaged in full-time work. Average working hours for these children were well beyond the 42-hour limit set by national legislation. The garments sector accounted for two thirds of female working children, raising serious concerns over garment exports and child labour. By the age of 14, almost half of children living in the slums of Dhaka were working.

The research shows how early exposure to work and withdrawal from education are harmful to children. This report offers recommendations for coordinated, cross-sectoral policies to break the link between child labour, social disadvantage and restricted opportunities for education. Policies must be integrated to span the regulation of labour markets, education, child welfare and wider global strategies for poverty reduction – what we found in Dhaka is a microcosm of a global problem that should be at the centre of the international agenda.

The legal maximum weekly working hours for an adult in the EU is 48 hours. The average working week for a child labourer in the Dhaka slums is 64 hours.
In the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh, two thirds of girl labourers are working in the garment sector.