[Authors: Mansi Kotriwar and Puneet Soi, B.B.A.LL.B.(Hons)]
Child labour has become a worldwide phenomenon especially in developing countries. Children in Indian society has always been a subject less spoken or discussed. the explanations are often traced back to the socio-cultural
background of the country. This paper focuses on the varied concepts related to child labour and what are the legal
mechanisms that were introduced to stop and detect child labour. Various causes of child labour are often the curse
of poverty, lack of educational resources, social and economic backwardness, etc. child labour can affect the
children in some ways like physical injuries like cuts, burns, fractures, tiredness, etc and emotional neglect leading
to depression and loneliness, etc.
Child labour may be a serious challenge facing the planet today. India has one among the very best numbers of
child labourers within the world and therefore the numbers have paradoxically increased. Various schemes and
programmes also are been introduced by the government so as to teach children and stop them from child
labour like the Mid-day meal scheme, Sarva shiksha abhiyaan, National child labour project scheme (NCLP), etc.
The paper attempts to summaries the meaning of child labour, its causes and therefore the mechanisms which are
been introduced to detect and stop the child labour.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines child labour as “ work situations where children are forced to
work on a regular basis to earn a living for themselves and their families and as a result they remain backward
educationally and socially in a situation which is dangerous , exploitative and harmful to their heath and to their
physical and mental development. These young boys and girls of school going age are forced to work as labours ,
contributing to the illiteracy rate our country. According to the official data, there are around 152 million children
worldwide working as child labourers, out of which accounts for close to 7.3% of that number.
Children in rural India has the highest percentage of child labour, according to the 2011 census, the highest number
of child labourers work in Uttar Pradesh. It is therefore no wonder that the poor households have the largest segment
contribution of child labour. Child labour restricts the right of children to access and benefit from education and
denies the fundamental opportunity to attend school. Also, this is one of the key aspects as children are sent to work
at the expense of education.
Meaning of Child Labour
A child who is between the age 5 to 11 years of age involving in labour activities is considered to be a child labour.
The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and their
dignity, and that can be harmful to their physical and mental development. The worst forms of child labour are
when the children are separated from their families and are been exposed to hazards and illness and when they are
treated like slaves. Also , the whether or not a particular work can be called child labour depends on the child‟s age,
the type and hours of work performed. In India, children are forced to work illegally in multiple industries and the
agricultural sector is the largest that employs children in the name of contribution to the family income.
There are various schemes in order to reduce and prevent the child labour but still despite of that many children
remain exploited under hazardous work conditions. Due to paid labour, children abandon their studies in order to
support their families.
Characteristics of Child labour
If any of the following is happening then that leads to child labour-
- Violation a nation‟s minimum wage law
- Threatens a child‟s physical, mental or emotional well- being
- Prevents child from going to school
- Involves intolerable abuse, such as child slavery, forced labour, child slavery, etc
- Uses children to undermine labour standards.
Causes of Child labour
The various government studies and policy statements and also as per different social and economic scholars the
following are some of the major reasons for the problem of child labour in India. This issues become very evident
from the plans of the government being targeted towards solving these issues.
2. Weak policy of legal framework
3. Weak social awareness
4. Economic uncertainties
5. lack of education
6. lack of employment, etc
The biggest caused behind the child Labour is that the rampant poverty. Poor families are entirely helpless to
satisfy their basic requirements. They are naturally compelled to send their children to figure at different sectors.
Poverty is the significant driving factor behind the child Labour. Even a united nations agency like UNICEF has
stated poverty as the biggest cause of child Labour. It has grown with the rise of industrial revolution. All industrial
societies also are a explanation for child Labour growth . The repression of the rights of youngsters is additionally a
biggest explanation for child Labour.
Then the unemployment is also another cause of child Labour, as there is lack of proper education since there is no
free education to poor families. They can‟t afford education expenditure and eventually plan to engage their
children at work. Unnoticeable group action and limited laws have raised child Labour.
Child labour can leave very bad impacts on the children as well such as it cuts the growth of children and deprives
them of their childhood. In different factories they suffer from many diseases as they’re not provided medical care .
They live in unhygienic conditions. Illiteracy leads them to be backward in society. They hardly find any
opportunity to achieve life. They become victim of leading a solitary life. These children are unable to find an open
platform to excel in their lives which leaves an adverse effects on the lives of children. This ultimately drags them
into uncertainty of life. They hardly find any possibility of progress and betterment in life. It destroys them
physically and mentally. Children become victims of mental disorders like depression. Eventually they start using
drugs. Children live under hazardous, non- sociable and pathetic conditions of life where there’s no hope in life. It is
a biggest barrier to achieve social and economic development.
The economy plays an enormous part in shaping the pattern of child labour found globally, the sparsely and densely
concentrated areas also because the general dispersal. The success of a world economy may result in child
labour during a number of various ways, like through supply and demand, and general economic change. However
as a result of the ever-changing economic environment, urbanisation is risky as often, thanks to the fluctuations of
economy they risk unemployment, which may cause poverty and their children being forced into child labour as a
Prevention of Child Labour
Every problem has a possible solution. Yes and even a big menace like child labour can be stopped and prevented in
a large country like India. It all depends on changing mind sets and evaluating situations from time to time.
Strict enforcement‟s of laws and various schemes together with rapid action committees will be torch bearers for a
better tomorrow and can throw light in the aspect of changing many innocent lives.
- Laws against child labour-
- The Factories Act of 1948- It prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory.
- The Mines Act of 1952– It prohibits the employment of children below the age of 18 years in any mines as it
is one of the most dangerous occupations and many accidents have happened in the past where children were
severely injured or even killed.
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986– According to this Act, children below the
age of 14 years cannot be employed for the work involving the use of hazardous substances and the list of the
works involving hazardous substances is provided in the Act. According to section 3 of the Act, any person
who violates the provisions of the act shall be liable for an imprisonment of not less than 3 months and which
can be extended to 1 year or with a fine of rupees 10,000 which may extend to 20,000 rupees or with both.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2000– This Act for the first time penalized the
offence of child labour. Any person who contravenes the provisions of the Act is penalized with an
imprisonment for a certain term and fines or with both.
- The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009– According to this Act, every child
up to the age of 14 years is entitled to free education and this being a fundamental right under article 21 Also,
there shall be reserved 25% seats in private institutions as well, and no child shall be deprived of education or
admission into any school on the grounds of him being from a poor family.
Under the Constitution of India
For the protection of children and prevention of child labour the constitution of India itself provide many
Part 3 of Indian Constitution: Fundamental rights
- Article 15 – The State shall not discriminate against any citizen .Nothing in this article shall prevent the State
from making any special provisions for women and children.
- Article 21A- Added by 86th constitutional amendment – The State shall provide free and compulsory
education to all children of the age of 6-14 years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
- Article 24- No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged
in any other hazardous employment.
Part 4 of Indian constitution: DPSP
The Directive Principles Of State Policy (DPSP) are guidelines for the framing of laws by the government.
These provisions, set out in Part IV of the Constitution, are not enforceable by any court in India, but the
principles on which they are based are fundamental guidelines for governance that the State is expected to
apply in framing policies and passing laws relating to it.
- Article 45 – The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they
complete the age of 6 years.
- Article 243G read with Schedule 11 – provide for institutionalisation of child care by seeking to entrust
programmes of Women and Child development to Panchayat , apart from education , family welfare, health
and sanitation , and other items with a bearing on the child welfare.
In order to implement the constitutional and international obligation towards eradication of child labour in
different occupations, the following legislative enactments have been in force, and continue after the Child
Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. It would be better to appraise various statutes and statutory
provisions enacted in the existing labour laws to tackle the problem of child labour.
THE PLANTATION OF LABOUR ACT, 1951
It applies to plantations in Tea, Coffee, Rubber or Cinchona, etc in which 30 or more persons are employed. It
prohibited the employment of children less than twelve years in the plantation.29 The child worker (A person
who has completed 15 years) can be allowed to work if employed only between 6 am. and 7 pm.
The Plantation Labour Act, 1951 has now been amended by sec. 24 of Child Labour (Prohibition and
Regulation) Act, 1986 to bring the age of the child in line with the definition under the said Act.
- THE MERCHANT SHIPPING ACT, 1958
The Act prohibits the employment of children in any capacity, who are below 14 years of age on sea-going
ships, except (a) in a scholarship or training ship; or (b) In a ship in which all persons employed are members
of one family; (c) In a homemade ship of less than two hundred ton gross; or (d) Where such person is to be
employed on nominal wages and will be in the charge of his father or other adult or a male relative. The Act
also makes provision for modest penalty of a fine of Rs. 50/- for violating these provisions.
- THE MOTOR TRANSPORT WORKERS ACT, 1961
Minimum age required for employment in every transport undertaking employing five or more workers is 15
years. The State Governments are authorized to apply all or any of the provisions of the Act to any motor
transport undertakings employing less than 5 workers. Now as amended by section 26 of the Child Labour
(Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, by which word „fifteenth‟ in clauses (a) and (c) of section 2 has been
substituted by word „Fourteenth‟
THE CONSEQUENCES OF CHILD LABOUR
Children are exposed to accidental and other injuries at work. They should thus be protected to stop social,
economic and physical harm, which persist to affect them during their lifetime. Such injuries include-
- General child injuries and abuses like cuts, burns, and lacerations, fractures, tiredness and dizziness,
excessive fears and nightmares.
- sexual assault , particularly sexual exploitation of women by adults, rape, prostitution, early and unwanted
pregnancy, abortion, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and HIV/AIDS, drugs and alcoholism.
- Physical abuse that involves punishment, emotional maltreatment like blaming, belittling, verbal attacks,
rejection, humiliation and bad remarks.
- Emotional neglect like deprivation of family love and affection, leading to loneliness, and hopelessness.
- Physical neglect like lack of adequate provision of food, clothing, shelter and medical treatment.
- Lack of schooling leads to missing educational qualifications and better skills thus perpetuating their life in
- Competition of youngsters with adult workers results in depressing wages and salaries. Apart from the
above, lack of opportunity for higher education for older children deprives the nation of developing higher
skills and technological capabilities that are required for economic development/transformation to attain
higher income and better standards of living, Lal (2019).
Child labour is a serious hindrance to the social and economic development of the nation. Children employed
in various sectors fail to urge the required education, virtually forced to steer a lifetime of hardship and
poverty. It also affects the overall health of a child, as children get exhausted easily and are not physically fit
to work for longer duration under difficult conditions. Children employed in glass and firecracker industries
work not just for longer hours but also under hazardous conditions, seriously compromising their health. They
are continuously exposed to toxic gases and substances resulting in various skin and respiratory ailments.
There should be a new approach that puts people and the work they do at the centre of economic and social
policy and business practice: a human-centred agenda for the future of work.
This agenda focuses on three pillars of action. First, it means investing in people‟s capabilities, enabling them
to acquire skills, reskill and up-skill and supporting them through the various transitions they will face over
their life course. Second, investing within the institutions of labour to make sure a way forward for work with
freedom, dignity, economic security, and equality. Third, investing in decent and sustainable work and
shaping rules and incentives so on align economic and policy and business practice with this agenda. By
harnessing transformative technologies, demographic opportunities, and therefore the green economy, these
investments are often powerful drivers of equity and sustainability for this and future generations.