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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09KATHMANDU1116
2009-12-09 07:40:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Kathmandu
Cable title:  

NEPAL: ILLEGAL CHILD LABOR IN BRICK KILNS PERSISTS

Tags:   ELBA  EIND  ETRD  PGOV  PHUM  SOCI  NP 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKT #1116/01 3430740
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 090740Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1132
INFO RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 7569
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 2910
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 5607
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3374
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J2X/J2C/J2D/J2I//
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
						UNCLAS KATHMANDU 001116 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELBA EIND ETRD PGOV PHUM SOCI NP
SUBJECT: NEPAL: ILLEGAL CHILD LABOR IN BRICK KILNS PERSISTS

Summary
-------


1. (U) Children compose as much as one-quarter of the labor
force in brick kilns in Nepalgunj, a major brick-producing
center, despite a ban on this practice, which the Government
of Nepal labeled one of the "worst forms of child labor." A
recent visit to the region by Emboffs also revealed that the
plight of these underage laborers, driven to work by poverty,
is largely ignored by non-governmental organizations.
Kilns Hire Children Despite Ban


--------------------------




2. (U) During a November 19-20 visit to Nepalgunj, the
center of brick production in the Mid- and Far-Western
Development Districts, Emboffs conducted interviews at six
brick kilns. Owners denied using child labor, but managers
readily acknowledged that 20 to 25 percent of their workers
were children under the age of 16, most of whom work
alongside their parents. They also admitted knowing that the
practice is illegal.



3. (U) Nepali law sets 14 as the minimum working age and 16
as the minimum age for hazardous work, including work in
brick kilns, which is legally defined as one of the seven
"worst forms of child labor." The maximum penalties for
violating these age minimums are up to three months in prison
and a Rs. 10,000 fine (about USD 135) for hiring a child
under 14 for any type of work and one year in prison and a
Rs. 50,000 fine for hiring a child under 16 for hazardous
work.

Indian Workers Preferred


--------------------------




4. (U) Almost all kiln laborers, legal and illegal, migrate
from rural areas outside of the Nepalgunj, with the
overwhelming majority ) an estimated 80 percent ) coming
from northern India. Kiln owners and managers told Emboffs
that they preferred to hire Indian workers because they are
more compliant and work harder than Nepalis. They also said
underage children are usually hired at the request of their
parents, who want to increase family earnings.

Hazardous Work, Low Pay


--------------------------




5. (U) Brick kilns operate from November to June ) the dry
season ) and underage children are involved in all phases of
production up to the firing of the bricks in the kilns,
including clay preparation and forming bricks. Safety
measures appeared to be non-existent. The laborers who
Emboffs saw, both adult and children, were barefooted and
worked with bare hands. Among the obvious hazards were high
levels of dust from which no protection was provided. In
addition to eye irritation, child workers also appeared to
suffer from sunburn ) all their work is conducted outdoors
) and malnutrition.



6. (U) Forming bricks is piecemeal work, with laborers paid
Rs. 183 (about USD 2.45) for every 1,000 bricks they produce.
It is estimated that one adult worker can form 800 bricks
per hour day. (Note. The work day, which varies according to
available sunlight, can be 12 hours or more. End note.) For
all other work, laborers are paid a flat daily wage, which
varies according to age and sex. One owner said he pays male
workers 16 and older Rs. 150 to 200, women Rs. 40 less, and
under-age workers just Rs. 50. He explained the pay
difference by claiming "women and children are not capable of
performing at the same level with men."

Child Workers Face Grim Future


--------------------------




7. (U) Most of the underage workers approached by Emboffs
were reluctant to talk, but those who did speak expressed
deep pessimism about their prospects for a brighter future
largely because they had to abandon their education in order
to help provide for their families. Deprived of their
childhood and education, they said they do not dream of a
better future because they believe there is no possibility
that it will be fulfilled.

No Helping Hand Extended


--------------------------




8. (U) Emboffs were surprised to learn that, despite the
widespread use of underage labor in brick production,
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have largely ignored
the issue. Regional officials from Child Workers in Nepal,
the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in
Nepal and the International Labor Organization said it is
difficult for their organizations to address the use of child
labor in brick kilns because the nature of the problem ) it
is seasonal work involving migrant workers ) makes it
difficult to assess fully. They also said it lacks the
visibility of other social problems on which they are
engaged, such as the use of bonded labor.

Comment


--------------------------




9. (SBU) The deep pessimism of children working in brick
kilns is understandable; they are caught in a double bind,
which is unlikely to be broken soon. NGOs are reluctant to
take up their cause because they lack visibility ) a
paradoxical position given that NGOs usually take the lead in
raising awareness about such issues. Without increased
awareness, no pressure will be put on the government to
enforce its numerous laws aimed at eliminating child labor,
especially its worst forms. Nor will parents begin to
understand, as these children do, that education is the key
to a brighter future, so they will continue to withdraw their
children from schools to work in the kilns.
BERRY