Child Labour in India

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Child Labour in India

Why in news?

  • 66,169 Child Labourers Rescued, Rehabilitated and Mainstreamed Under National Child Labour Project Scheme During 2018-19.
  • Total 1,44,783 Child Labourers Rescued & Rehabilitated During Last three Years.

Child labour

  • United Nations considers “any work carried out to detriment and engage children (5-14 years) is violation of international law and national legislation and if the work deprives them of schooling or puts them under dual burden of schooling and work is child labour”.
  • As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, amended in 2016 (“CLPR Act”),
    • a “Child” is defined as any person below the age of 15, and the CLPR Act prohibits employment of a Child in any employment including as a domestic help. It is a cognizable criminal offence to employ a Child for any work.
    • Children between age of 14 and 18 are defined as “Adolescent” and the law allows Adolescent to be employed except in the listed hazardous occupation and processes which include mining, inflammable substance and explosives related work and any other hazardous process as per the Factories Act, 1948.
  • In 2001, an estimated 1% of all child workers, or about 120,000 children in India were in a hazardous job.
  • Notably, the Constitution of India prohibits child labour in hazardous industries (but not in non-hazardous industries) as a Fundamental Right under Article 24.
  • UNICEF estimates that India with its larger population, has the highest number of labourers in the world under 14 years of age, while sub-Saharan African countries have the highest percentage of children who are deployed as child labourers.
  • The International Labour Organization estimates that agriculture, at 60 percent, is the largest employer of child labour in the world, while the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 70% of child labour is deployed in agriculture and related activities.
  • Outside of agriculture, child labour is observed in almost all informal sectors of the Indian economy.
  • Child Labour is an outcome of various social-economic problems such as poverty, economic backwardness and illiteracy.

Government initiatives

  • Government is following a holistic and multi-pronged strategy for elimination of child labour completely.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016: The Government has amended the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 and enacted Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 which inter-alia covers –
    • complete prohibition on employment or work of children below 14 years of age in all occupations and processes;
    • linking the age of the prohibition of employment with the age for free and compulsory education under Right to Education Act, 2009;
    • prohibition on employment of adolescents ( 14 to 18 years of age) in hazardous occupations or processes and
    • making stricter punishment for the employers contravening the provisions of the Act.
  • Subsequent to the amendment in Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, Government has framed Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017.
  • National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme: The Government is also implementing the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme for rehabilitation of child labour.
  • Under the NCLP Scheme:
    • children in the age group of 9-14 years are rescued/withdrawn from work and enrolled in the NCLP Special Training Centres, where they are provided with bridge education, vocational training, mid day meal, stipend, health care, etc. before being mainstreamed into formal education system.
    • children in the age group of 5-8 years are directly linked to the formal education system through a close coordination with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
  • PENCIL portal: Further to ensure effective enforcement of the provisions of the Child Labour Act and smooth implementation of the NCLP Scheme a separate online portal PENCIL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) has been developed.
    • Launched in 2017 by the government, PENCIL portal has less than 1000 complaints being registered till now.
  • The 86th Amendment to the Constitution, 2002, aims to provide free and compulsory education to children of age group 6 to 14 years.
  • NCPCR: The setting up of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was yet another big move. It works under the aegis of the women and child development ministry.


  • As per census data 2011, the number of working children in the age group of 5-14 years is 1.01 crore.
  • There are 22.87 million working children in India between 15-18 years.
  • 80% of the child labour in India is concentrated in rural areas.
  • ILO 2016 data indicates that there are 152 million working children in the world between 5-17 years, of which 23.8 million children are in India.

ILO conventions 138 and 182

  • In June 2017, India ratified core ILO conventions 138 and 182 on child labour to symbolize its commitment and initiatives for the eradication of child labour and attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 related with curbing of child labour.
  • ILO Convention No. 138: ILO Convention No. 138 concerning Minimum Age for Entry to Employment & Work was adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 58th Session in June, 1973. This Convention is one of the 8 Core Conventions of the ILO being referred to as Fundamental or basic Human Rights Conventions and the ILO has been very active in promoting its ratification. Each country ratifying this Convention undertakes to:
    • Pursue a national policy designed to ensure the effective abolition of child labour;
    • Specify a minimum age for Entry to employment or work which will not be less than the ages of completion of compulsory schooling;
    • To raise this progressively to a level consistent with the fullest physical and mental development of young people;
    • Guarantee that the minimum age of entry to any type of employment or work, which is likely to compromise health, safety of morals of young persons shall not be less than 18 years
  • ILO Convention No. 181: ILO Convention No. 182 and the accompanying Recommendation No. 190 concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour was adopted by the ILO in its 87th Session at Geneva in June, 1999. Convention No. 182 is one of the 8 Core Conventions of the ILO being referred to as fundamental or basic human rights Conventions. Main provisions of Convention No 182:
    • For the purpose of this Convention, the term child shall apply to all persons under the age of 18.
    • For the purpose of this Convention, the term worst forms of child labour comprises:
    • All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and traff icking of children (debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour), including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.
    • The use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography o r for pornographic performances.
    • The use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular of the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties.
    • Work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Difficulty in countering child labour

  • To effectively combat child labour, the Centre, in 2016, amended the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.
    • While the amendment seeks to completely ban child labour, it allows children to render help in “family enterprises” and allows adolescents to work in certain occupations not considered hazardous.
  • Change in the nature of Child labour, it is becoming more home based, difficult to regulate.
  • India for a long time ignored the provisions of the ILO Convention 138 that occupations (in which minors cannot be employed) should also include those which can jeopardize the safety and morals of young persons.”
    • It points out that the treatment meted out by employers can make a work environment hazardous.
  • Adolescents are not aware of the industries that are safe to work in.
  • Lot of children are susceptible to diseases as they do waste collection without any safety gear.
  • Disbursal of the rehabilitation fund is not very timely, and the number of cases where disbursal takes place is also very minimal due to the small number of cases that are registered under the law against child labour

Way forward

  • Better implementation of legal provisions
  • Institutions of local governance like Panchayati Raj institutions should be sensitized and empowered towards prevention of child labours in their jurisdictions, as well as rehabilitation of former child labourers.
  • Proper counseling of parents is certainly a very crucial step. Awareness-building programmes with parents and communities should be conducted, through which people at large can understand the ill effects of child labour.
  • Implementation of livelihood schemes like MGNREGA and others will all sincerity.
  • The private sector has a very important role to play in protecting children from harmful work, in improving working conditions and removing hazards from the environment of young workers.
    • We also believe that employers that are aware of the risks of harmful work for children and what is acceptable and not acceptable for a child or young worker to do, are crucial for the protection of children.

Mains question

  • Examine the challenges in eradicating child labour in India. What measures have been adopted by the government in this regard?

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