Search

 

Cablegate: Bangladesh: Child/Forced Labor in Goods Production - Tvpra

VZCZCXRO5910
RR RUEHHM RUEHJO RUEHPOD
DE RUEHKA #0745/01 1960350
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140350Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7038
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
INFO RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 8483
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8531
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2260
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9767
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0735
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 1377
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0325
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0970
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DHAKA 000745

SIPDIS

WHITE HOUSE FOR USTR VKADER AND AADLER
DOL/ILAB FOR RRIGBY, JPIORKOWSKI
DEPT FOR DRL/ILCSR MMITTELHAUSER, GTIP SSTEINER
DEPT ALSO FOR SCA/PB, SCA/RA, USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EAGR ETRD SOCI PGOV BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH: CHILD/FORCED LABOR IN GOODS PRODUCTION - TVPRA
RESPONSE

REF: A) DHAKA 00618 B) STATE 43120 C) DHAKA/DC EMAILS MAY-JUNE 2008

DHAKA 00000745 001.2 OF 003


SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) As a result of poverty and population density in Bangladesh,
child labor exists throughout the country. Economic necessity
requires millions of children to work for their survival and that of
their families. The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) has limited
capacity to enforce its labor laws, which do not cover the informal
and agricultural sectors that employ many children. The GOB works
closely with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to address
"the worst forms of child labor." It is common for labor agents and
employers to pre-pay wages to seasonal workers or internal migrants
for a set period of service by children or adults. While these
arrangements mostly do not involve coercion or deception, they can
result in exploitative conditions.

2. (U) Ref A and this cable provide Embassy Dhaka's response to Ref
B tasking. Per Ref C guidance, this cable focuses on the incidence
of child labor in Bangladesh's production of matches, leather, bidis
(hand-rolled cigarettes), and garments. This reporting supplements
DOL-contracted reports on forced and child labor provided by Macro
International subcontracted to Services and Solutions International
(SSI) in Bangladesh. Post worked closely with SSI in the gathering
of information and compilation of its reports. Post's new labor
officer is David Arulanantham, who can be reached via email at
ArulananthamDP@state.gov.

MATCHES
-------

3. (U) During an unannounced visit to a match factory, EmbOffs found
that approximately 15 percent of the workers appeared to be children
under the age of 14 and another 20 percent were adolescents.
Children and adolescents worked at all stages of the match
manufacturing process, including shaving logs into thin sheets,
stamping out sticks, drying, dipping sticks in match head chemicals,
packing boxes, and printing matchbox packaging. The factory manager
claimed he hired children at the request of parents who also worked
in the factory. The manager reported the parents were worried about
their children being exposed to drugs or other harmful influences on
the street if they were not working nearby. Given the adult
workers' abject poverty the extra income was welcome, the manager
added, reporting that some of the children attended school in
addition to working in the factory. While profit margins are very
tight in the match business, the manager stated he did not pay
children any less than adult workers. Heat and insufficient fire
safety precautions were the main health/safety issues for both
children and adults within the factory.

LEATHER
-------

4. (U) EmbOffs saw no child workers in the four leather tanneries
visited. In the fetid tanning factories, the backbreaking work
involves scraping and moving large chemical-laden skins from various
baths and treatment drums. Bolstering the tannery owner's claims
that children did not do this work, it seemed it would be physically
impossible for a child to effectively perform most jobs within the
tanneries. While a child could be involved on the margins with
fetching objects or cleaning, EmbOffs saw none during unannounced
site visits. We observed one child worker in a leather-crafting
workshop working alongside skilled craftsmen; the boy appeared to be
an apprentice.

BIDIS
-----

5. (U) According to labor researchers, the production of bidis -
hand-rolled cigarettes with a leaf wrapper - takes place in the
informal sector. In response to consumer preferences, the bidi
factory closest to Dhaka recently shifted to producing cheap
cigarettes, involving a more mechanized operation that reportedly
has limited scope for child labor. Researchers told us the rolling
of bidis was traditionally the work of women and children, since

DHAKA 00000745 002.2 OF 003


smaller fingers were better able to roll and fold leaves.

GARMENTS: SUPPLY CHAIN CONCERNS
-------------------------------

6. (U) Following a multi-stakeholder effort to eliminate child
labor from the garment sector following the 1992 Harkin Bill,
Bangladesh has maintained that its garments export sector to be
child-labor free. The Solidarity Center (AFL-CIO) in Bangladesh
reported that all manufacturing in Bangladesh's Export Processing
Zones (EPZs) was free of child labor. According to an ILO official,
it was difficult to validate the Bangladesh garment industry's claim
the sector was child labor free outside the EPZs because the garment
industry monitored only a fraction of the total number of garment
factories. International investigative media reporting (i.e. UK's
Channel 4 in 2006) on major brands (i.e. Walmart in 2005) alleged
that factories producing for international brands had not been
consistently child labor free in recent years. ILO consultants also
suggested that while children might be actively excluded from RMG
production for export, there was no corresponding effort for
garments produced for Bangladesh's domestic market. Based on media
and NGO reports, it seems likely child labor exists in supply
industries linked to the RMG sector, and in non-export oriented RMG
production.

CANDLES/FUEL LOGS
-----------------

7. (U) In the Cox's Bazaar region of southeastern Bangladesh, the
production of candles and combustible fuel logs for the domestic
market involves child labor. For example, LabOff observed an
approximately 12-year-old boy sealing plastic bags of candles with a
hot iron in an informal factory - essentially a shed. A second boy
was cutting vegetables to make lunch for the factory workers. A
larger group of boys played nearby; they said they worked in two
factories, the candle shed and another informal factory that
manufactured artificial fuel logs made of compressed grain chaff.
The production of candles is a low-technology manufacturing process.
In fact, some NGOs use candle-making as an income-generating
project for female slum dwellers.

AGRICULTURAL AND AQUACULTURAL GOODS
-----------------------------------

8. (U) Bangladesh's agricultural sector accounts for at least 20
percent of the Gross Domestic Product, and at least 50 percent of
employment. Bangladesh's agricultural and informal sectors are
excluded from the national labor law regime; accordingly there is no
legal prohibition on the use of child labor in the rural sector.
However, the GOB recognizes that some of the "worst forms of child
labor" may exist in the rural sector (e.g. spice milling, fish
drying) and has been working with the ILO and other donors to craft
an appropriate development program response. As in many
agricultural economies, child labor as part of a farming/fishing
household is common and may be exploitative.

FORCED LABOR: BONDAGE BY CREDIT
-------------------------------

9. (U) The most common form of forced labor in Bangladesh (for all
ages of workers) is debt-bondage. Particularly for workers from the
poorest north-western region of Bangladesh, labor agents pre-pay
families for labor to be provided over a number of months in the
southern areas - commonly in coastal areas associated with fishing
work, for working harvest seasons, or in Bangladesh's ship breaking
yards. Although some employers using bonded labor claim to repay a
pro-rated amount of wages if a worker wishes to return home early,
anecdotal evidence suggests most do not. Additionally, personal
debts accumulated by workers and the costs of transportation to home
villages further limit the option of leaving exploitative working
conditions.

10. (U) In the case of children, poor families sometimes place their
children with nearby employers who pre-pay them for the term of the
child's employment and also agree to feed and house the child
worker. The proximity of the employment allows the family to see the

DHAKA 00000745 003.2 OF 003


child, ensuring s/he receives food and care. LabOff observed cases
of bonded child workers in the fish-drying industry in Bangladesh's
Cox's Bazaar region.

COMMENT: CHILD LABOR IN DEVELOPMENT CONTEXT
-----------------------------

11. (U) International interventions related to child labor in
Bangladesh fall into two main categories: the developmental and the
compliance-oriented. Compliance efforts for certain product
categories may successfully end child labor in targeted sectors but
often fail to address the fundamental causes and consequences of
child labor. From a human development standpoint, children who no
longer work may no longer be able to afford school, and they may be
unable to obtain food or shelter for themselves or their families.
Without well-conceived development programs, a child worker who
loses his employment in the formal sector may be subjected to
increased exploitation and lower economic benefits in the informal
sector. In this grindingly poor nation, eradicating child labor
requires not only enforcement and compliance, but also development
support for education, livelihoods, food, shelter and health care.

MORIARTY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: