Child Labour: Types, Reason and Solution

child labourThe future of a nation lies in how it treats the youth population, especially children. Children are considered to be next to almighty and it is such a pleasure to be around them as we get carried away with their innocence. Child labour is not an issue which is restricted only to the Indian Subcontinent, but it is a global problem and it is the duty of every citizen to protect the rights of a child against exploitation. United Nations(UN) refers to anyone below the age of 18 as a child and the term child labour is defined as “the work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” It can be simply be denoted as the tradition of making children engages in economic activity, on a part- or full-time basis which is detrimental to their growth and it can be with or without payment.

Some different forms/types of child labour include slavery or such similar practices, sale and trafficking of children for child pornography or child prostitution and forced or bonded labour which leads to exploitation. They are often exposed to hazardous work conditions and in most cases, are forced to forgo education.

The Reason for Child Labour in India:

In India, according to Article 24, No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or in any hazardous employment but unfortunately, the largest number of child workers in the world are seen in India. Child labours are regularly employed in India in various places of production and service. since ancient times, children in India have been helping their parents in their hereditary occupation like in farming and other primitive activities like housekeeping, restaurant service, shopkeeper’s assistance and so on.

UNICEF points out that in India, 1 of 5 primary schools have just one teacher to teach their students across different grades and there is a huge shortage of teachers. For every child who is not in school and they are said to be working as child labour or hidden labour say child rights activists.

In a country like India, every 1 out of 5 persons are living below the poverty line, here children are pushed to work out of necessity and without such earnings they cannot afford to lead a livelihood. A major chunk of children in India need to support their families and in certain situations, this also leads to crime and indulging in a job reduces the chances of a child becoming a juvenile. Thus, children need to work to keep themselves away from starvation. In a populous country like India, providing considerable employment to all these children is not possible which makes child labour a serious problem. Social Scientists say that poverty is the most important cause for Child labour and a few other reasons include illiteracy and unawareness among parents who send their kids to work, another reason that industries employ children due to low-cost labour etc. There are 217 million people in India below the poverty line and thus these families are forced to send their children to work.

The agricultural sector in India majority employs child labourers while some labours are seen working in low-skilled yet labour-intensive sectors such as textiles or as domestic labourers or in heavy industry such as coal mining and diamond making. These occupations neither require formal education nor training. They are subjected to work in unhygienic and inhuman conditions.

Solution for the Problem:

The problem of child labour posing a threat to the Indian Government and the government is expected to be pro-active and take the necessary measures to tackle this problem from being unmanageable. Child labour is a socio-economic problem and is often linked to poverty and the Government of India has taken several efforts over the years to address and meet the needs and rights of these children.

In 1979, Gurupadaswamy Committee was established to study the issue of child labour and the committee wanted to ban child labour therefore they recommended the Child Labour Act which was enacted in 1986. This act prohibits children from working in certain specified hazardous occupations. Later the government came up with a better approach to implement the National Policy on Child Labour in 1987 which seeks to adopt a gradual change and focuses on rehabilitation of children and following the law an action plan was outlined to taken action against this evil practice.

There were many inputs and measures taken by the Government to children and laws that protect and benefit the overall development of children. As poverty is the major root cause of this mishap, the government came up with several poverty alleviation measures and employment generative schemes.

Read: Global Estimates of ChildLabour by ILO

A recent trend in Child Labour:

There is a major change in trend in the type of child labour activities in recent years which is due to the implementation of stringent legislation, awareness amongst consumers about child exploitation. Nowadays children are engaged in household work in family homes in cities while in rural labour in the agricultural sector including cotton growing, matchbox, fireworks, lock-making factories, handicrafts, rag-picking, beedi-rolling, in mining and stone quarrying, and tea gardens. As children grow older the workload and duration of the working hours increase. To be accurate, children are working in different sectors today which is a major challenge because, in many cases, children work in informal sectors such as agriculture, and in urban settings in restaurants, motor repair workshops and household works.

Thus, the government has been making strict laws and have enforced various legislative provisions along with rehabilitative schemes and a violation of any of the acts is ensured with strict punishments. To monitor the same, the government has established a separate vigilance cell. Systems have been set to verify the age of employees has been made mandatory in many institutions.

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Mahima Shankar, currently pursuing 3rd year in Sociology from M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai.