When will Nepal become a child labor free country?

Abolition of the worst forms of child labor is a national as well as international priority. But Nepal still has a long way to go to achieve the goal.

Photo: Save the Children.

Helina Rai

  • Read Time 3 min.

Eliminating all forms of child labor is not only a national priority but also an international commitment made by the government of Nepal.

At the national level, the Nepal government introduced a 10-year National Master Plan on the Elimination of Child Labor in 2018. The plan includes a clear aim of eliminating the hazardous and worst form of child labor by 2022. Further, the plan envisages eliminating all types of child labor by 2025.

At the international level, as a signatory country to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), Nepal must put efforts to eliminate all forms of child labor by 2025 as Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 clearly mandates the governments to take appropriate action to this end.

The reality, however, shows that the government stands at a critical juncture–as the country has not been able to fulfill its commitment to eliminate the worst form of child labor in the stipulated time.

But if we look at the children involved in the worst form of child labor, it looks pretty challenging to meet that goal. Nepal still has a long way to go to eliminate child labor including that of the worst form of child labor. 

Though there’s still difficulty in obtaining reliable and accurate data on child labor, it is estimated that around 1.1 million children are working as laborers. Out of the total, approximately 200,000 children are involved in the worst form of child labor.

So when is the country going to be a child-labor-free one?

This is apparently a very difficult question. Not easy to answer. What we can say is it depends on the will and seriousness of the government and support from other sectors as well.

Needless to say, politicians are less bothered by issues such as child labor given that their priorities often revolve around perpetuating more power. They are ahead in making promises but do not show the seriousness required to achieve them.

On the other hand, the issue of child labor is becoming more complex with each passing day. For example, the worst forms of child labor are taking place due to the emergence of social media and other developments.

Covid-19 is believed to have a reverse impact on some of the major achievements made in various sectors including that of child labor. It is because the economic condition of a family directly impacts the number of children working in various sectors. As Covid-19 pushed many families into poverty, the chances are that children are also forced to work to meet the needs of the family.

Further, the pandemic also became an excuse for the government not to make children’s issues a priority of the country as the government was concentrating on managing the pandemic and its effects.  As a result, policymakers have paid little attention to the genuine issues of children, Nepal’s commitment toward eliminating child labor, and overall child protection and safeguarding issues.

Over the course of time, the form and modality of child labor have changed. Child labor issues are not only connected to one particular aspect. Children are lured by different agents into more risky and informal sectors. In many cases, children cannot report even if they get abused or misused by adults or elderly people.

Child labor issues deal with multiple factors. The government and other stakeholders should not overlook social, economic, and cultural aspects of the problem while dealing with the child labor issues.

All the concerned stakeholders should work together to achieve the country’s plan of eliminating child labor. Government, civil society organizations, private sector organizations, and other stakeholders should be on the same page to make effective progress toward the goal to make the country child-friendly.

Helina Rai is a Kathmandu-based development as well as a communication professional. Email: [email protected].