Child Labour in India

Image Source: The News Minute

Practice Essay topic – “Children shouldn’t Work in Fields, but on Dreams”.


Why in news recently: The World Day Against Child Labour was recently celebrated on June 12. 

On World Day Against Child Labour (June 12) in 2017, India ratified two core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on child labour which are ILO Conventions 182 and 138. ILO Convention No. 138 inter-alia prescribes that there should be a minimum age of entry to employment which should not be less than age of compulsory education or 15 years (relaxable to 14 years in the case of developing countries). ILO Convention 182 inter-alia, mentions the minimum age for working in hazardous occupations as 18 years. As on date, 167 countries across the world have ratified ILO Convention 138 and 179 countries have ratified ILO Convention 182.

What is the extent of prevalence of Child labour in India:

Although comprehensive data on child labour are not available for India, as per the 2011 Census, in the age group 5-14 years, 10.1 million of 259.6 million constituted working children. Even though there was a decline in the number of working children to 3.9% in 2011 from 5% in 2001, the decline rate is grossly insufficient to meet target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is to end child labour in all forms by 2025. India therefore needs to embark on new and innovative approaches in its fight against child labour.

Census 2011 shows decline in Child Labour which has come down to 1.01 crore as compared to 1.26 crore in 2001.

What is the significance of ratifying ILO 138 and 182:

The ratification of the core conventions on child labour gives rise to a range of priorities such as strengthening policy and legislative enforcement, and building the capacities of government, workers’ and employers’ organisations as well as other partners at national, State and community levels.

It is worthy of mention that India had taken important steps to eliminate child labour even before ratifying these conventions. In addition, there are a few more important steps that the country can take in this direction.

Measures taken by the government:

  • Legislative – government has enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 which came into force with effect from September 01, 2016. Now the employment of a Child below 14 years is completely prohibited in any occupation or processes. The Amendment prohibits the employment of adolescent (14-18 years) in hazardous occupations and processes.
  • Administrative – National Child Labour Project (NCLP) aims to eliminate all forms of child labour through identification and preparing children withdrawn from work for main stream education along with vocational training. An online portal, PENCIL, was launched on 26.09.2017 for better monitoring & reporting system to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the amended Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 and National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme. All operational Project Societies of NCLP are registered on the portal for better implementation of NCLP scheme aimed at educational rehabilitation of child and adolescent labour.

Way ahead:

  • More data, focused research and knowledge – India should invest in enhancing its body of knowledge on child labour, emphasising quantitative information. While there are many common factors across the spectrum, each sector and each demographical segment will have its own set of factors and drivers that push children into the labour market. These have to be addressed. Such factors and drivers can only be identified and analysed through proper research, surveys and assessments.
  • Involving the private sector – The growing interest of the private sector is a great opportunity that has to be further utilised, particularly to leverage key influencers in domestic and multinational supply chains. It is also a matter of competitive advantage for multi-nationals to ensure that child labour is effectively eliminated in their supply chains. A sector-wide culture of child labour-free businesses has to be nurtured.
  • Though poverty has been one of the important factors of the cause of child labour, change in the mindset and attitude of the society towards this problem, could go a long way in ameliorating the problem.

“The fight against child labour is not just the responsibility of one, it is the responsibility of all.”

Sources: The Hindu and PIB