Eliminating child labour: A long way to go

Imagine a child carrying bricks on her shoulder in the sweltering sun, instead of sitting in a classroom, doodling in her notebook. Imagine a kid who’s never been allowed playtime, but instead put through gruelling work, day after day. Unfortunately, this is a sad reality for millions of child labourers all over the world. Despite adopting stringent child labour laws, we have not been able to put a stop to this social evil that continues to plague the underdeveloped and developing world. In India, the scourge of child labour is rampant, with one out of every 11 children forced to work.

Child labour in India

When it comes to child labour in India, there’s a stark contrast between what the laws of the land are and what the ground reality is. The facts below paint a bleak picture of the current situation in our country.

Rule: Children below 14 years should not be employed, except in certain family-run, home-based occupations.
Reality: 10.13 million child labourers aged between 5 and 14 years toil every day in India.

Rule: Adolescents between age 14 and 18 should not be employed in hazardous occupations.
Reality: At 2.4 million, India has the highest number of adolescents working in hazardous conditions.

Rule: Education has been made compulsory for children between ages 6 and 14.
Reality: Among children between 6 and 14 years of age, less than half go to school. Among working adolescents, 56% have stopped studying altogether.

Rule: The total duration of work for a child should not be more than 6 hours on any day.
Reality: Child labourers are often made to work for 14-16 hours a day in the unorganised sector, in agriculture, and in some industries.

Rule: Child labour laws stipulate that employing child labourers is a punishable offence.
Reality: Between 2015 and 2018, out of the 10,826 cases of violation of the act, only 25% progressed to the stage of conviction.

What causes child labour


Image courtesy: India TV News

All parents want their children to go to school, and not to work. However, circumstances force many parents, and their children, to put work before education. Sadly, most of these kids end up with no education at all, which is in gross violation of a fundamental right guaranteed by our constitution. Several factors deprive children of even basic education and aggravate the issue of child labour in India which include:

Poverty: For the poor and needy, child education is beyond their means while on the contrary, child labour brings extra income, causing parents to often choose the latter.

Lack of access to education: Though education is a priority for the country, thousands of villages in India still have no proper schools or educational facilities.
Social backwardness: Due to illiteracy and ignorance, many parents don’t realise the value of education and the ill-effects of child labour.

Disease or disability: If the breadwinner in the family has a chronic disease or disability, the burden of supporting the household falls on the child’s shoulders.

Cheap labour: Children are employed by many businesses because they generally need to be paid just half the wage of an adult (or even less) and are easy to manage.

Unorganised trade: The informal sector often escapes the clutches of child labour laws while employing a huge workforce, a majority of which are children.

How you can help stop child labour

It’s true that the power and responsibility of preventing child labour rest squarely on the shoulders of the government and law enforcement agencies. However, as conscientious citizens, each of us can act in our own small ways to curtail the practice of child labour. Some of these steps are:

  • Do not employ children to do odd jobs like washing your car or running errands even though it helps them earn some money – it’s against child labour laws.
  • Start demanding declarations from manufacturers and sellers that their products are free of child labour.
  • Be cognizant of child labour laws and bring any instance of a violation to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
  • Talk to parents and try convincing them to send their children to school, not to work. Make them understand how a lack of education can ruin the child’s future.
  • Associate with citizen groups or similar initiatives and persuade government authorities to enforce compliance and expedite action against violators.
  • Join forces with organisations that are actively working to tackle the issue. Extend any assistance you can, including volunteering in your free time or offering financial support.

Find out how you can associate with the Sparsha Trust in its efforts to fight child labour.

Cover Image courtesy: Window To News