Ways to prevent child labour in India
Two years after governments set a 2025 target to end child labour, delegates from 100 nations at a recent conference in Buenos Aires were told that...
Two years after governments set a 2025 target to end child labour, delegates from 100 nations at a recent conference in Buenos Aires were told that they will miss the deadline. The implication is also that realising the objective could take well over 20 years after the expiry of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
What is meant by child labour?
According to International Labour Organization (ILO), the term ‘child labour’ is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
Bonded Labour is exploitation in which the child is forced to work as a payment of debt taken by his/her parent.
Urban Child Labour is where the street children who spend almost all of their life on street work as labourers.
In India, the child labour has been a long and common practice where children help their parents at their farms and in other activities.
Following are the conditions, under which an activity shall be recognized as child labour:
- is mentally, physically, socially, or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
- interferes with their schooling by:
I. depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
II. obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
III. Requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
Articles related to child labour in India
1. Article 14 (No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other dangerous employment.
2. Article 39-E ( The state shall direct its policy towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused, and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuitable to their area and strength.
3. Article 39-F (Children shall be given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, and that childhood and youth shall be protected against moral and material abandonment.
4. Article 45 (The state shall endeavor to provide within a period of ten years from the commencement of the constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years. The main legislative measures at the national level are The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act – 1986 and The Factories Act – 1948.
Causes of child labour in India
Poverty can be termed as the main reason for child labour in India.
Though the country has achieved commendable progress in industrialization, the benefits of the same have not been effectively passed on to the lower strata of society.
In order to keep costs down, even large companies employ unorganized workers through contractors, who get uneducated and unskilled and semi-skilled people at very low wages.
This helps the industries to keep their labour costs down at the cost of the poor labourers.
In effect, what happens is that, the children of these poor unorganized labourers have to find some work to help run the family.
They cannot afford to go to school when they do not have food to eat, and when their other brethren go hungry. Hence, children from such deprived families try to work as domestic servants, or in factories that employ them, and remain uneducated and grow up that way becoming perennial victims of this vicious cycle of poverty and suppression.
High competition for jobs
The industrialists in India have been successful in taking advantage of this disadvantage faced by job seekers.
Due to high population, the job seekers are not in a position to bargain a higher wage.
As a result, the poor remain poor working for low wages.
Illeteracy and lack of education
- Illiteracy is a situation when a person is not able to read and/or write.
- This is when the person is not in a position to get even primary education.
- Lack of education is another aspect which is a result of illiteracy and lack of information.
- An uneducated person is one, who is generally unaware of things which an average person is required to know.
- Such people are normally unaware of their human rights and the rights of their children too.
- The children of such people normally become child labourers around their homes.
Irresponsible attitude of employers
- A general sense of irresponsibility towards society is seen among the employers in India, who are least bothered as to how their employees survive.
- In spite of being aware of the high cost of living and inflation, they are least bothered and least ashamed to pay wages, which are much below sustenance levels.
- Also, if the employers were responsible, they in the first place would not employ children at all.
- The following are some of the situations in which children are engaged in work:
- Agriculture- children working long hours, and under severe hardships on the fields.
- They are also exposed to the hazards of working with modern machinery and chemicals;
- hazardous industries/ occupations- like glass making, mining, construction, carpet-weaving, zari-making, fireworks, and others, as listed under the Child Labour Act;
- small industrial workshops and service establishments;
- on the streets- rag-pickers, porters, vendors etc;
Domestic work- largely invisible and silent, and hence face higher degree of exploitation and abuse in the home of employees.
What are the consequences/adverse effects of child labour on a child’s life?
- Child labour hinders the education – which affects their future as lack of education causes unemployment, and thus the result is poverty. It affects the child’s health and growth process.
- The children are endangered to accidental and other injuries at work.
- Sexual assault, especially sexual exploitations of girls by adults, prostitution, rape which leads to abortions, unwanted pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted disease (STDs), alcoholism and drugs.'
- Physical abuse involves punishment, such as caning or flogging known as corporal punishment, emotional abuse such as blaming, making bad remarks, humiliating, verbally attacking, and rejection.
Emotional neglecte. depriving the child of family love and affection which results in hopelessness and loneliness
Physical neglect such as not giving sufficient food, shelter, medical treatment and clothing]
Constitutional provisions against child labour in India
As per Article 21(A) and Article 45 – The child has the right to Education i.e. the state shall provide compulsory and free education to the children of the age six to 14 years.
As per Article 24 –There is a provision under which a child below the age of 14 years cannot be employed in any mine, factory or hazardous workplace.
As per Article 39(f) –The child’s youth and childhood are to be protected against moral and material abandonment and exploitation.
Initiatives against child labour in India
The Act that regulates child labour is “The Child Labour(Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 which defines a child as any person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age.
The Act prohibits children from working in any occupation which includes dhabas, domestic labour, hotels, catering or construction work on railways or anywhere near the tracks, automobile garages and plastics factories, places where the process of soap manufacturing, beedi making, brick kilns, tanning and roof tiles units.
A National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987 to focus on rehabilitating children working in hazardous occupations.
Many NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, CARE India, Child Rights and You, Global march against child labour, RIDE India, Child line etc. have been working to eradicate child labour in India.
However, these efforts have been inadequate to eradicate Child labour.
Child labour has also been a subject of public interest litigations in Indian courts
The International Labour Organisation focuses on five key issues related to child labour:
- Prohibition of child labour
- Protecting child at work
- Tackling the core causes of child labour
- Helping children to adjust to future work
- Protecting the children of working parents
Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the 2030 Agenda, UN Member States, employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as civil society organizations, are urged to eliminate child labour by 2025, and forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030.
In order to contribute to this goal, the ILO launched Alliance 8.7, a global partnership designed to align the efforts of those working towards the achievement of SDG Target 8.7.
Goal 8 aims to Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
In Target 8.7 leaders committed to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms
Global Conference on the sustained eradication of child labour
Since 1997, countries around the world have shared knowledge on policies and good practices, and have committed to eliminate child labour in a series of global conferences held in Oslo (1997), The Hague (2010) and Brasilia (2013).
The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour was organized by the Government of Argentina and will be held in Buenos Aires on 14-16 November 2017.
While significant progress has been made globally in the fight against all forms of child labour between 2000 and 2012, with ILO constituents having increasingly adopted and implemented integrated strategies and coordinated policies to combat child labour the goal that was set to eliminate it in its worst forms by 2016 was not achieved.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that eight years from now, around 121 million boys and girls would still be engaged in various occupations. The present figure is around 152 million children aged 5-17. That is to say, only 31 million children are expected to be rescued between now and 2025 from conditions that deprive them for life of the fundamental ingredients of basic survival.
Should countries resolve to reinvigorate their efforts to reach the target, they would be looking at a reduction each year of 19 million. That is close to five times the prevalent pace of decline. That would be a stupendous record of eradicating a practice inconsistent with modern democratic norms.
Four systemic failures in eradicating child labour
The ILO points to four systemic failures that underpin the lack of progress.
The absence of national legislation to give effect to global conventions on the employment of children in hazardous industries, as well as on the minimum age of work.
The lack of harmony between global commitments and domestic priorities.
Incoherency between laws that prescribe a minimum age for employment and those for completion of compulsory school education. It also means that the expansion of quality universal basic education has to extend beyond the fulfilment of statutory provisions.
Lack of effective labour inspections in the informal economy. Around 71% of working children are concentrated in the agriculture sector, with 69% of them undertaking unpaid work in family units.
Key policy ‘pillars’ in the fight against child labour
A new ILO report says improving legal protections, labour market governance, social protections, access to quality education and social dialogue between governments, the social partners and other stakeholders are critical aspects in battling child labour.
Legislation alone cannot eradicate child labour. There is also a need for stronger labour inspection systems as it rarely reaches workplaces in the informal economy, where most child labour is found. A strong legal framework that mandates punitive action against errant firms and recruitment of youth and adults are important tools to guarantee the protection of children.
Work for adults and youth of legal working age that delivers a fair income and security means that households do not have to resort to child labour to meet basic needs or to deal with economic uncertainty.
Well-designed labour market policies focused on where most child labour persists – in the rural economy and the informal economy – can help curb the demand for child labour. At the same time, establishing regulatory frameworks is critical to addressing child labour in supply chains.
Continued progress against child labour requires policies that help mitigate the economic vulnerability of households. Accelerating progress towards universal social protection is key, as social protection helps prevent poor households from having to rely on child labour as a coping mechanism.
The single most effective way to stem the flow of school-aged children into child labour is to improve access to and quality of schooling.
Child Labour is like a termite which is affecting the strength and growth of Child as an individual and as a citizen and future of the country. It has to be eradicated from routes so that the children of the country can have better future and help in the development of the country.
The ILO report said, “we must turn this renewed commitment into accelerated action and consign child labour to the dustbin of history, once and for all.”
BY Gudipati R ajendera Kumar