The “arduous” nature of brick making – mostly done in a crouching position, in which workers are constantly exposed to the sun, heat and blowing dust – and low wages make it difficult for brick kilns to recruit and retain labour.
A new United Nations-backed survey has found that most workers in Afghanistan’s brick kilns are bonded child labourers. In other words - slaves.
56 per cent of brick makers in Afghan kilns are children under the age of 18 and 47 per cent are 14 or younger. Workers and their families are tied to a kiln by the need to pay off loans taken for basic necessities, medical expenses, weddings and funerals. Both adult and child labourers work more than 70 hours a week, in very poor conditions. Average daily wages are between 297 and 407 Afghanis ($6.23-$8.54) for an adult and 170-278 Afghanis ($3.57-$5.82) for a child.
“Faced with never-ending debt, families feel they have to use all available labour, even if it is to their long-term detriment, to make daily ends meet. It is out of necessity and extreme poverty that households enlist their children from an early age to work in the kilns,” stated Sarah Cramer, lead author of the survey, which was commissioned by the UN International Labour Organization. “It is extremely difficult for a bonded labourer to leave the vicious cycle of debt as the wages paid are too low to allow the advance to be fully paid off by the end of the season,” said Ms. Cramer. “By using a system of advances on future wage payments that bond labourers and their families, kiln owners are able to ensure a regular labour supply at low cost,” she stated.