Though child labor is illegal in Nepal, an estimated 1.6 million children between the ages of five and 17 years are in the work force, according to the National Child Labor Report.
About three-quarters of them are under the age of 14, and most are girls.
Child workers are a frequent sight on Kathmandu’s streets, whether cleaning dishes in local restaurants or making a living as conductors on the city’s public transport.
Many are employed in the carpet, brick and garment industries, or in private homes as domestic workers.
Employers typically see the relationship as a mutually beneficial arrangement, providing the children accommodation and education, as well as a salary that supports their families, said Krishna Hari Pushkar, director general of Nepal’s Department of Labor.
Though working as underage domestic help is defined as child labor, there is a mutual agreement between the children, their parents and the employers, Pushkar said, referring to it as “social adoption.”
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