Bhutan: the government looks for a solution to child labour

A study “Situation of child labour in Bhutan 2009” indicates that many children are engaged as babysitters, helpers in hotels and restaurants, and working in the agriculture sector.The prevalence of child labour in Bhutan suggests an urgent need for intervention from related agencies.

Kelzang Gyeltshen, 17, is from Thrimshing in Trashigang. He came to Thimphu a year ago seeking a better life. All he found was the job of a parking fee collector earning Nu.5000 a month. He is the youngest of six siblings. His mother died a few years ago and his father lives in Thrimshing. Kelzang lives with his elder brother and his wife in Dechencholing in a small two-room house. Kelzang has never been to school.

“I come from a deprived family. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to school. Now that I am here, I work as a parking fee collector,” said Kelzang. After dressing up, putting on his shoes, and waving good bye to his sister in-law, Kelzang heads towards the city bus stand to get to work. His day starts at Norzin Lam, one of the busier places in the capital. He manages to send home a little every month.

Kelzang’s friend Singye Wangchuk who is 16-year-old has also been forced to work as a parking fee collector. Like Kelzang and his friend, there are many others who are minors and have had to work due to difficult financial circumstances.
The Labour Force Survey of 2011 showed that the trend of child labour is, however, not uniform across the country. The greatest concentration of child labour has been found to be in the Dzongkhags of Dagana, Samtse and Trashigang.

According to the Bhutan Multiple Indicator Survey, 2010, at least 19% child labour involved girls. Girls aged between 11 and 20 years are mostly employed as domestic help and babysitters.

Poverty, broken families, rural-urban migration and an increasing number of out of school youth were seen as contributing to child labour.

The Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, in an attempt to discourage child labour, has plans to propose compulsory education for all children through formal and non-formal education systems.


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