The phrase "child labour" is often characterised as employment that deprives children of their childhood, potential, and dignity, as well as work that is hazardous to their physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially, or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or interferes with their schooling by denying them the opportunity to attend school; forcing them to leave school prematurely, or requiring them to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
Child labour should not be used as a blanket term to describe all work performed by children. Work that does not harm a child or adolescent's health, personal development, or interferes with their education is typically seen as beneficial for the overall development of the child and enables personality enhancement.
This includes activities such as helping in a family company or earning pocket money after school and on weekends. In addition to improving the well-being of children and their families, these sorts of activities also help them gain knowledge and skills that will help them become contributing members of society when they grow up. They also enable them to learn a sense of responsibility.
The two ILO Conventions on child labour are Convention No.138 on Minimum Age and Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. These Conventions are “fundamental” Conventions.
India and Child Labour
According to the ILO, there are around 12.9 million Indian children working between the ages of 7 and 17. When children labour or perform unpaid employment, they are less likely to attend school or go just intermittently, locking them in the poverty cycle. Every day, millions of Indian girls and boys go to work in quarries and factories, or sell cigarettes on the street. They labour up to 16 hours a day to assist their families make ends meet.
According to 2011 Census statistics, India has 10.13 million child labourers aged 5 to 14. However, the situation is not uniform throughout India, with certain states reporting a higher prevalence of child labour than others, with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh accounting for almost 55% of the entire population of working children in India.
The Child Labour Amendment (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016, is the legislation in India that addresses child labour. This regulation regulates child labour and prohibits children under the age of 14 from working in in any occupation regardless unless they are artists or work in a family business. Children under the age of 18 should not be engaged in any hazardous occupation.
Article 21(A) of the Indian Constitution of guarantees free and compulsory education for all children aged 6-14 years.
Article 24 explicitly bans the employment of children under the age of fourteen in hazardous industries that may bring them bodily as well as long-term mental damage.
Article 51/A, Under Fundamental Duty- who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.
Article 45: To provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.
What are the factors that contribute to child labour in India?
Despite India's recent economic success, more than a third of the country's population remains impoverished. Technical advancements and breakthroughs in the IT industry have not resulted in the creation of employment in impoverished regions. People in rural regions with little access to education sometimes have no other option than to withdraw their children out of school and put them to work to help feed their families.
Due to the severe financial position of many families, children are sold to child traffickers by their fathers and mothers, or parents leave their children in the countryside while looking for a job in a large metropolis. These children are especially vulnerable and are often exploited by traffickers who force the boys and girls to work for very low wages or nothing at all.
What needs to be done?
The rules against child labour must be strengthened and properly enforced. Mere legislation is not sufficient, it must be implemented efficiently.
Furthermore, it is critical to tackling severe poverty, which is a core cause of child labour. Ending child labour in India requires addressing poverty and inequality. It’s the inability to fulfil basic needs that pushes parents to force their children to work.
Access to education is also critical for breaking the cycle of poverty and child labour. As children finish greater levels of school, they are more likely to find respectable jobs as adults and to be able to utilise their earnings to support themselves and their families without depending on child labour.
Despite the fact that schooling is compulsory and free in India for children up to the age of 14, pervasive poverty leads families to prioritise feeding their children over sending them to school. As a result, many children attend school irregularly or not at all because they have to work instead.