Working Paper

"No One Comes Here on Their Own": The System of Child Labour Migration in Bangladesh

Published 1 January 2009 / By Karin Heissler

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Introduction

Networks have been identified as playing a critical role in reducing the costs and risks to migration. Yet, approaches to trafficking associate children’s labour migration with exploitation, and the persons with whom they migrate as traffickers. Findings from ethnographic research undertaken in Bangladesh reveal that children’s migration for work is largely contained within established social networks. Although children’s migration for work is predominantly economically motivated, it is social and highly protective. The persons with whom children migrate are not ‘traffickers’. Rather, the relationship between them reveals extra-household interdependencies for economic and social benefits. Although the system of child labour migration is heavily structured, girls and boys assert their own interests during the process of migrating and finding work and, in so doing, display agency and power.

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