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Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The Constitution stipulates that children shall not be employed in factories, mines, or similar hazardous work and limits children between the ages of 14 and 16 years to a 36-hour workweek. The law established a minimum age for employment of minors at 16 years in industry and 14 years in agriculture and mandated acceptable working conditions for children.
The Child Labor Act established specific penalties for those who unlawfully employ children. The legislation applies only to formal sectors of the economy, such as tourism, cigarette or carpet factories, and mines, but not to informal sectors such as portering or rag-picking, or the 80 percent of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. Children under the age of 14 years and children between the ages of 14 and 16 years may work, but no more than 6 hours a day and 6 days a week. Employers must maintain records of all 14-to 16-year-old laborers. However, the necessary implementing regulations have not yet been passed. The ministries have stated that the continued delay was a result of the need to rework the Act to comply with ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
Resources devoted to enforcement were limited, and children worked in many sectors of the economy. NGOs estimated that 2.6 million children--most of them girls--were economically active. Of that number, 1.7 million children worked full time. The agricultural sector accounted for most child laborers—-an estimated 95 percent. Roughly 60 percent of children who work also attend school. Approximately 70 to 75 percent of boys who work go to school, compared with 50 to 60 percent of girls who work. ILO 2001 Rapid Assessments estimated that 55,000 child laborers worked as domestics in urban areas, 42,000 as porters, 4,000 as rag pickers, and 17,000 as bonded laborers. Others are economically active in a few small-scale and cottage industries. During the year, an ILO program assisted 8,535 landless Kamaiyas children who worked as bonded laborers.
There were reports that the Maoists use children, including girls, as soldiers, shields, runners, and messengers.
The Ministry of Labor's enforcement record was mixed. In 2002 according to the Ministry, it conducted 369 inspections of carpet factories in the Kathmandu Valley to ensure that no child labor was present. The Ministry reported that 63 children under the age of 14 were found working in the factories, but no convictions or arrests were made under the Act. Government monitoring of other industries and of industries outside the Kathmandu Valley was sporadic. The Government also conducted public awareness programs to raise public sensitivity to the problem of child labor.
The private sector has made its own efforts to eradicate child labor, especially in the carpet industry. In 1999, the carpet manufacturers association pledged publicly to end child labor in the industry by 2005. The Rugmark Foundation certifies carpets made without child labor; over half of all carpet factories participate in this or a similar certification system. As a result of this initiative, and of consumer pressure, Rugmark estimated that children constitute only 2 percent of the work force in the export-oriented carpet industry. However, children's rights activists stated that children remained a part of the work force, in the smaller factories and family weaving units. During the year, Rugmark conducted 2,910 inspections at factories, identifying and removing 127 children from factories. Out of that number, 54 children agreed to receive care at Rugmark rehabilitation centers. Rugmark issued 74 warning letters to carpet factories where children were found employed.
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