A Better Brick: Addressing Child Labor in Nepal’s Brick-Making Industry




By Deborah Andrews

Prior to the April 2015 earthquake, Nepal was in the midst of a construction boom that was struggling to keep up with the rapidly increasing population and urbanization trends. After the earthquake, the need to rebuild further increased the demand for bricks. For workers on Nepal’s kilns, the brick industry played a much needed role as a source of income for unskilled labor, although the industry has been characterized by exploitative employment practices.

The Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) with its partners – GoodWeave International, Brick Clean Group Nepal (BCN) and Humanity United (HU) – recognized the importance of the sector and saw an  opportunity to create incentives based partnerships to bring improvements to an informal, migrant, working population with little government representation or oversight. A project named Better Brick Nepal (BBN)’ is paving the way for nationwide change throughout the brick kiln industry.


Here are the top 10 facts you need to know:

  1. The number of kilns currently operating in Nepal is thought to be between 1,200 and 3,000 –with a large number of unregistered kilns. Many kilns exist on the periphery of communities where there is little government oversight, community organization or worker association representation which leaves the workers wide open to exploitative practices.
  1. Approximately 250,000 people are thought to work annually in kilns throughout Nepal, of that as many as 60,000 are children. Brick workers are largely an unskilled, migrant population. Most are migrating from within Nepal, but some are from northern India, resulting in many children living temporarily in a community which speaks a different language to their own and being part of a school system which is completely different and non-transferable – if the school is willing to take them in at all. A number of educational deficits take place.

Read more


46 Groups Ask Congressional Appropriators to Fully Fund USDOL’s Child Labor Program

May 3, 2016

[This letter in support of ILAB funding was recently sent to appropriators Senator Roy Blunt and Senator Patty Murray, and Representatives Tom Cole and Rosa DeLauro on behalf of 46 organizations, representing tens of millions of Americans].

Dear Chairs and Ranking Members:

As the undersigned members of the NGO community and anti-child labor advocates, we write to urge you to ensure critical funding to end child labor and forced labor around the world.

Two 13 year old boys digging for gold in a mine in Mbeya region, Tanzania. (c) 2013

Two 13 year old boys digging for gold in a mine in Mbeya region, Tanzania. (c) 2013


The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at the U.S. Department of Labor has worked for 20 years to reduce exploitative child labor, combat forced labor, and provide technical assistance to address worker rights in countries with which the United States has trade agreements or preference programs.

As you determine funding levels for Fiscal Year 2017, we ask that you restore ILAB’s child labor grant funding to $58.8 million (fiscal year 2015 levels) to ensure that ILAB’s critical work towards ending exploitative child labor continues. In addition, we ask that you approve $10 million for programs that address worker rights issues through technical assistance in countries with which the United States has free trade agreements or trade preference programs, and $9.5 million for program evaluation to continue the ensuring that ILAB’s work is grounded in the needs of vulnerable children and their families and that it continues to show results in prevention of child labor and labor rights violations.

Approximately 168 million children around the world are engaged in child labor and 85 million children perform hazardous work that threatens their health and development. Since 1995, ILAB has worked to build the capacity of governments and civil society to better address the various social and economic causes of child labor, and has provided direct services to almost 2 million vulnerable children and their families in over 90 countries. ILAB works with the public and private sectors to address child labor and forced labor, and promote fair and safe employment.

Through its holistic programming, ILAB works with international, government, and local actors to increase awareness, improve access to education, and develop economic opportunities for adults, allowing families to improve their livelihoods without relying on children for income to meet basic needs. Preventing and responding to child labor through such community-based approaches protects children from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence. Additionally, by identifying products made by forced labor and child labor and tracking the progress (or lack thereof) made by 125 countries to eliminate these practices, ILAB plays a critical role in driving advocacy to reduce these scourges.

Eliminating child labor is not only good for vulnerable children and families but it also supports U.S. businesses who are currently disadvantaged when they have to compete with businesses that cut costs by illegally employing children.

Read more