Child Labour - An Analytical View

Authored By:

Prateeksha Singh, Lloyd Law College

Aakriti Garodia ,Jindal Global Law School

Edited By

Ajal Verma, National Law Institute University Bhopal

The issue of Child labour is a universal problem. It is more common in under-developed and developing countries like India. It is any job or work done by the children to benefit their family or themselves economically at the cost of their physical, social, or mental development. Children constitute the most important asset of a nation and when they are forced to do hard labour which harms their physical or mental health, to earn a livelihood, denying them education and hence their optimal growth, the nation bears a net loss of their capacity as mature adults.

According to UNICEF, the following types of work are exploitative:

  1. Full-time work at an early age

  2. Too many event hours spent working

  3. The work that exacts excessive physical, social or psychological stress

  4. Inadequate wages with a burden of responsibilities.

  5. Work that acts as a barrier for access to education

  6. Work that sabotages the children’s dignity and confidence such as slavery, sexual exploitation or bonded labour

  7. Rag-picking on the streets in unfavorable conditions

The census data of 2011 provides that the number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million out of which 5.6 million are males and 4.5 million are females.[1]

In most cases, parents and relatives of the children belong to the socially backward classes and adverse circumstances force them to send their children to perform their jobs and other works that may harm their health.

India is a labour -intensive country, and child labour facilitates the lowering of labour rates which then increases the profit margins of the capitalist.

Child labour and exploitation are also the results of many factors, which include unemployment, extreme poverty, illiteracy, urbanization, migration, poor school infrastructure, social standards and mainly because employing children is unethical. The State of the World’s Children Report, 1997 points out three key factors as the main cause of child labour, namely:

  1. The exploitation of poverty

  2. The absence of education

  3. The restrictions of tradition

Child labor is considered as an evident violation of the spirit and norms of the constitution.

The founding fathers of our Constitution, observing that labour is not only a social issue but an offense against the advancement of the society, made several provisions in the Constitution for the protection of working children. Article 39(e)[2] of the Directive Principles of State Policy states that the health and strength of the workers, men, and women and the tender age of the children should not be abused and citizens should not be forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age and physical strength. Article 39(f) states that children should be given opportunities and facilities to develop a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against the exploitation and moral and material abandonment. Article 45 of The Constitution of India further lays down that the State shall endeavor to provide within 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution, free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years. More than a dozen laws have been enacted to prevent employment below 15 years and to give them adequate protection against exploitation where they are working.

The Government of India has followed the dynamic policy, in the global issue for dealing with the Child Labour issue. In addition to the legislative provisions made to different laws to secure the Children from the exploitation at the workplace and to work for the betterment of the working surroundings, an extensive law, The Child labour( Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which prohibits the employment of children in the hazardous condition, 1987, focuses on general development programs fro the benefit of Child labour and establishes schools to give them the access of education and vocation training, supplementary nutrition, etc. The Government of India has for a long time followed a proactive policy in the matter of tackling the problem of child labour. In addition to the legislative provisions made to the various laws to protect children from exploitation at work and to improve their working conditions, a comprehensive law, namely, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 prohibits employment of children in certain hazardous occupations and processes and regulates their employment in some other areas. The National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987 which, apart from requiring enforcement of legal provisions to protect the interest of children, envisages focusing on general development programs for the benefit of child labour and project-based plan of action in areas of high concentration of child labour: the establishment of schools to provide non-formal education, vocational training, supplementary nutrition, etc. However, the number of working children waiting to be released and rehabilitated.

The Supreme Court of India, in the judgment dated 10 December 1996[3] in a writ petition (civil) No. 465/1986 has given certain directions regarding how the children working in hazardous occupations are to be released and rehabilitated as also how the working conditions of the children working in non-hazardous occupations are to be regulated and improved upon. The important directions given in the judgment include payment of compensation amounting to Rs. 20,000 by the offending employers for every child employed in hazardous occupations, the formation of Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund, giving alternative employment to an adult member of the family in place of the child withdrawn from the hazardous occupation, or the payment of Rs.5000 for each child employed in a hazardous occupation.

Despite the constitutional safeguards and various enactments, the Central and State governments have not been able to check the employment of children by factory- owners and contractors, and free bonded child labour. The worst affected states are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh. Haryana and Punjab have been able to eliminate child labour to a great extent, the main reason for being a prosperous economy. In Uttar Pradesh, however, the authorities were found to act and free some of the bonded children.

Many times, children are exported outside the country by unscrupulous and dishonest agents on the promise of securing them lucrative jobs. In some countries in the Middle East, children are dragged in camel races. They are also employed in beggary. The commercial and sexual exploitation of children is also a fact. According to the report of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), an estimated one million children are drawn into sexual exploitation for commercial purposes.

The causes of child labour being complex, its solutions must be comprehensive: the eradication of poverty, provision of compulsory and free education, and increase of social awareness. The issue of child labour in the current scenario of economic development cannot be resolved, the focus has to be put on making the working conditions of child labour better and favorable and more acceptable socially. Improved legislation coupled with effective enforcement machinery is called for. The final aim of terminating the issue of child labour can only be achieved when there is sufficient improvement in the conditions of the families whose children are compelled to work. Child labour cannot be eliminated by legislation alone unless supported by the socio-economic programs and upliftment of education of the poor and backward segments of the society.

[1] Child labour and exploitation. (2011). UNICEF India. https://www.unicef.org/india/what-we-do/child-labour-exploitation#:%7E:text=According%20to%20data%20from%20Census,and%204.5%20million%20are%20girls.

[2] Part IV, Directive Principles of State Policy, The Constitution of India.

[3] Direction of Supreme Court, Government of India, Ministry of Labour and employment,

https://labour.gov.in/childlabour/directions-supreme-court

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