A child is considered to be involved in Child Labor activities under the below classification given by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF):
• Children 5 to 11 years of age, those who did at least one hour of economic activity or at least 28 hours of domestic work during the week preceding the survey did and
• Children 12 to 14 years of age those who did at least 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of economic activity and domestic work combined during the week preceding the survey.
Child labor is a complicated and ongoing issue in the present world. According to the statistics given by International Labour Organization (ILO) and other government agencies, more than 73 million children between 10 to 14 years of age are considered as child labour. Asian countries occupies distinctive place with 44.6 million child labour followed by Africa with 23.6 million and Latin America with 5.1 million. Child labour is wide spread in rich and industrialized economies than in poor countries. It is also estimated that there are 60 to 115 million working children in India- which was the highest in 1996 according to human rights watch. As per the statistics, child labor appears to be more in villages than in urban areas. Nine out of ten village children are employed in agriculture or household industries and craftwork. Due to urbanization, more children are getting in to the service and trading sectors rather than marketing. To differentiate on the basis of gender, it is considered that more boys are employed in laborious activities than girls. This consideration is made based on the fact that it is difficult to take a count of girls working in households.
Child labour can be found majorly in below sectors in India:
1. Bonded Child Labour
2. Child Labour Agriculture sector
3. Street Children
4. Children at glass factories
5. Child labour in match box factories
6. Child labour in carpet industry
7. Child labour in Brass and Lock industries
Laws related to child labour:
• Children [Pledging of Labour] Act (1933)
• Employment of Children Act (1938)
• The Bombay Shop and Establishments Act (1948)
• Child Labour -Prohibition and Regulation Act
• The Indian Factories Act (1948)
• Plantations Labour Act (1951)
• The Mines Act (1952)
• Merchant Shipping Act (1958)
• The Apprentice Act (1961)
• The Motor Transport Workers Act (1961)
• The Atomic Energy Act (1962)
• Bidi and Cigar Workers (Condition of Employment) Act (1966)
• State Shops and Establishments Act
Statistics of child labour in India:
A survey conducted by 7th All India Education Survey reveals below facts on Child Labor:
• At present there are 17 million children labour in India.
• A study found that children were sent to work by compulsion and not by choice, mostly by parents, but with recruiter playing a crucial role in influencing decision.
• When working outside the family, children put in an average of 21 hours of labour per week.
• 19% of children employed work as domestic help.
• 90% working children are in rural India.
• 85% of working children are in the unorganized sectors.
• About 80% of child labour is engaged in agricultural work.
• Millions of children work to help their families because the adults do not have appropriate employment and income thus forfeiting schooling and opportunities to play and rest.
• Children also work because there is demand for cheap labour.
• Large numbers of children work because they do not have access to good quality schools.
• Poor and bonded families often “sell” their children to contractors who promise profitable jobs in the cities and the children end up being employed in brothels, hotels and domestic work.
• There are approximately 2 million child commercial sex workers between the age of 5 and 15 years and about 3.3 million between 15 and 18 years.
• 500,000 children are forced into this trade every year.
Bonded labour is more common in many rural areas of India. The poor parents need money for various purposes like agricultural works and other family needs and children work in order to pay off a debt. The creditors-cum-employers offer these “loans” to poor parents in an effort to secure the labor of a child, which is always cheaper than bondage. The parents, for their part, accept the loans. The arrangements between parents and contracting agents are usually informal and unwritten. The time period required to pay off such a loan will not be determined. This is a kind of slavery and mostly appears in underdeveloped and lower caste people. The children who were bonded to work cannot escape bondage because of the fear of losing their livelihood on one hand and unequal power relationships between the child workers and the creditors cum employers on the other.
• Lack of elementary education at the primary level
• Parental ignorance
• Ineffective implementation of child labor laws
• Non availability of schools in rural areas
• Unpractical school curriculum
• Lack of proper guidance
• Excessive population
• Illiterate and ignorant parents
• Adult unemployment
• Availability of child labour at cheap rates
• Adult exploitation of children
• Industrial revolution
• Multinationals preference to employ child workers
Child labour is a serious evil for the developing countries like India. The majority of child labourers in India work in industries such as cracker manufacturing, diamond polishing, carpet weaving, brassware industry, glass and bangle making, and mica cutting. The employers hire child labor by paying less pay in sub-human conditions with long working hours. Government of India has taken major initiatives to eradicate the child labour by passing special legislations and punishing the offenders. Not only government authorities, but also other social rehabilitated centers are playing an important role in rescuing the child labour at the central and state level. Providing education to all the children is a long-term answer to this social menace.
Government of India initiatives in eradicating Child Labour in India:
1. Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS): As a continuation to the adoption of the National Policy for Children (1974), the Government of India developed the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme, popularly known as ICDS.
The objectives of the ICDS are as follows:
• Building the foundation for physical, psychological and emotional development of the child.
• Improve nutritional and health status of children below six years of age.
• Reduce the rate of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropouts.
2. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986: Article 24 of the Indian constitution expresses that, “No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or employed in any hazardous employment.” The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 describes a child labour as a person who has not completed his/her 14th year of age and doing labour works. Child labour act aims to normalize the working hours and the conditions of child labour and to eliminate them from the hazardous working conditions.
3. Right to Education Bill: The government of India proposed the Right to Education bill in 2009 and implemented it at the grassroots level in India to eradicate the child labor.
4. Rehabilitation of Children Working in Hazardous Occupations: On August 15, 1994, the government of India launched another program to eliminate child labor from hazardous working conditions. Special schools have been set up for their rehabilitation in which they are provided with education, vocational training, monthly stipends, nutrition and health-checks.
5. Establishment of National Authority for the Elimination of Child Labour (NAECL): The National Authority for the Elimination of Child Labour (NAECL) was established on September 26, 1994 to eliminate child labor from India. The major initiatives of the programme are as follows:
• Child labour policy programs and formulations.
• Designing the programs, projects and schemes for eliminating the child labour from gross root level.
• Coordinating various child labour related projects among different government departments and ministries.
6. National Child Labour Project (NCLP): In 1988, the government of India launched the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) as a pilot project in nine districts with a motto to eradicate child labour. The children enrolled in this program were provided with formal and informal education, vocational training, and also a monthly stipend along with supplementary nutrition and health care. Initially it was started in nine districts and spread to 100 in the ninth 5-year plan and 250 in the tenth 5-year plan.
7. International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC): IPEC is a global programme launched by the International Labour Organisation in December 1991. India was the first country to join it in 1992 by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ILO.
8. INDUS Project: The Government of India and the US Department of Labor initiated a US$ 40 million project to eliminate child labor in 10 hazardous sectors across 21 districts of five States namely, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi.