Issue of Child Labour in India


India recently ratified two core conventions of International Labour Organisation on child labour.


  • India ratified International Labour Organizations Convention No 138 (minimum age for employment) and Convention No 182 (worst forms of child labour).
  • The ratification of both conventions coincided with the International Day against Child Labour.
  • The ratification symbolised India’s commitment and initiatives for eradication of child labour and attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 related with curbing of child labour.

The International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency dealing with labour problems, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all. What are international labour standards? International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO’s constituents (governments, employers and workers) and setting out basic principles and rights at work. They … Continue reading “The International Labour Organization (ILO)”

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What is Child labour?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, or work whose schedule interferes with their ability … Continue reading “What is Child labour?”

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Child labour has been one of the biggest concerns in India.

  • According to 2011 Census, There were more than 10.2 million “economically active” children in the age group of 5to 14-5.6 million boys and 4.5 million girls.
  • 8 million children were working in rural areas, and 2 million in urban areas.
  • Child labour has decreased in rural areas however; it has increased drastically in the urban areas which is really alarming.
  • An analysis (2016) by CRY (Child Rights and You) of census data shows that the overall decrease in child labour is only 2.2%per year from 2001 to 2011.

Causes of Child labour

  • Poverty is the greatest cause of child labour. For impoverished households, income from a child’s work is usually crucial for his or her own survival or for that of the household. Children are also bonded to labour due to a family indebtedness.
  • Illiteracy of the child’s parents further worsens the situation. Lack of awareness of the harmful effects of child labour is a major cause behind the prevalence of child labour.
  • Lack of access to basic and meaningful quality education and skills training. Especially in rural areas, there is lack of adequate school facilities. Schools are often far, and quality of education is poor.
  • Increasing demand for child labour especially in urban areas is an important reason. Children are employed because they are cheap and flexible according to the demands of the employer and not aware of their rights.

Nature of Child labour in India

  • The location of work has changed. There has been an increasing involvement of children in home-based works and in the informal sector. The change in type of child labour mainly attributes to enforcement of legislation and awareness amongst buyers about child exploitation.
  • In urban areas, a large number of children are engaged in manual domestic work, rag picking, restaurants, motor repair shops etc.
  • In rural sector children are engaged in the agricultural sector including cotton growing, at glass, match box and brass and lock-making factories, in embroidery, rag-picking, beedi-rolling, in the carpet-making industry, in mining and stone quarrying, brick kilns and tea gardens amongst others.
  • The division of labour is gender-specific with girls being engaged in more domestic and home-based work, and boys working as wage labourers.
  • Bonded child labour: Bonded labour means the employment of a person against a loan or debt or social obligation by the family of the child or family as a whole. It is no less than slavery. Bonded child labourers are often found in agriculture sector or assisting their families in brick kilns, and stone quarries.

Impact of Child Labour

  • Child labour deprives a child of his/her childhood. It not only denies his/her right to education but also a child is left with little or no time to play. Working in hazardous conditions adversely affects a child’s physical and mental health.
  • Presence of a large number of child labourers has long term effect on the economy; it is a serious obstacle to socio-economic welfare of a country.
  • Children who work do not get proper education. Also their physical, intellectual, emotional and psychological development gets hindered. Children, who work, instead of going to school, will remain illiterate and this would hinder quality human capital formation.
  • According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are tremendous economic benefits for developing nations like India by sending children to school instead of work. Without education, children do not gain the necessary skills that will increase their productivity to enable them to secure higher skilled jobs in future with higher wages that will lift them out of poverty.

National Legislations addressing the issue of Child Labour in India

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986) Based on the recommendations of the Gurupadswammy Committee (1979), the Act was passed in 1986. It has following objectives: to prohibit the engagement of children in certain employments and to regulate the conditions of work of children in certain other employments The act defines a child as any … Continue reading “National Legislations addressing the issue of Child Labour in India”

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  • Proper implementation of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act
  • Stricter punishment for one who employs or encourages child labour
  • Improvement of educational infrastructure- ensuring access to educational institutions, improvement in quality and relevance of education
  • Awareness-raising and mobilization of families and communities against the exploitation of children
  • Social protection programmes and cash transfers to improve the economic situation of families and to reduce the “need” to send children to work
  • Co-ordinated action is required between government departments to combat the problem of child labour.


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