The government has taken up a pilot project to make clothing factories in Keraniganj, on the Dhaka's outskirts, free of child labour by 2022.
After successful completion of the trial at the apparel factories on the bank of the River Buriganga, children's employment will be eliminated gradually in other sectors too, Labour and Employment Secretary KM Abdus Salam told a roundtable in the capital Sunday.
While addressing the programme on "Eliminating child labour in local apparel factories", Abdus Salam said they will implement the pilot in association with the local administration, apparel makers and workers' leaders.
While presenting a keynote paper on the Keraniganj garment hub, AKM Ashraf, executive director at the Bangladesh Labour Foundation (BLF), said there are around 2.30 lakh workers employed in nearly 9,500 factories in Keraniganj.
"Of them, 52%, or 1.20 lakh, are children aged below 17. Of them, most (83.46%) are between 14 and 17 years old," said he added.
According to the International Labour Organization, child labour refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially or morally harmful.
The BLF conducted their study in the clothing industry, considering child labour age limit to 18.
According to their study findings, children at Keraniganj garment units have to work 12 hours a day on an average. The working hour climbs up to 16-18 hours ahead of the Eid festivals.
Children are usually treated as apprentice for two years upon joining, and they do not get any salary during the time, said the report.
However, Tofazzal Hossain, joint general secretary of Keraniganj Garment Factory Owners' Association, challenged the report. He said the report is false and fabricated.
He claimed that no one is hired at the apparel units without payment.
Speaking on the occasion, BLF Chairman Abdus Salam said as Keraniganj supplies about 70% of garments to the local market, they choose the place for carrying out the research.
BLF Secretary General ZM Kamrul Anam moderated the event while a number of garment manufacturers and labour leaders were also present.