Concept of Child Labor
Child Labour is an evil that has been in practice since ancient times. It not only deprives a child of his/her childhood but also finishes his/her opportunities of getting education and intellectual growth. This practice is considered exploitive by many international organizations.
Child labor is something that is distinguished from normal labor. Child labor  refers to a practice whereby a child, under the legal age for working, i.e. 14 years, is made to do work that is physically or mentally harmful for them in such age. Universally, the age for considering a person a child is 18 years of age. Child labor occurs in almost every industry, for example, brick making, bangle making, agriculture, and various hazardous work.
Generally, people get confused between the work which is considered dangerous work and decent work at that age with child labor. Dangerous work comprises of the work which includes work done by children below the age of 18 years and involves risk to the health of the child, whereas decent work is the work that helps children in their all-round development for examples the internships to learn a particular skill and to learn how to work in a formal environment.
Causes Behind Child Labor
- High level of Poverty and Unemployment – Poor families have many kids and the thinking behind is that having more people will become a helping hand  for them to earn their basic necessities as there is more demand of child labor as compared to employment opportunities for adults because the pay of child labor is less than the pay of adult labor with more bargaining power available to the employer.
- Debts – Money borrowed by a person from a money lender to repay his bills for example medical bills, electricity bills, etc are repaid to the moneylender by asking his child to perform labor for some amount of time.
- Professional Needs – In many industries there are needs of small delicate hands for example in the bangle making industry there is a high demand for delicate hands and small fingers with excellence, and children working in such dangerous work with glass end up having severe eye accidents.
Industries where Children are Involved
- Mining – Those Children who are involved in such underground mines and quarries often suffer high health risks.
- Flesh Trade – Young girls are often sold and forced into prostitution, in such circumstances these girls lose their childhood and their lives are destroyed with limited future opportunities.
- Agriculture – Children are often placed in fields to harvest crops for very long hours. They are exposed to extreme heat and pressure with very little or no pay, without adequate food and water.
- Factories – Many factory owners employ children even if the work is hazardous and can affect the health of the children for example glass, clothing factories, fireworks industry, etc.
These were some of the industries where Child Labor is practiced prominently and because of all of these difficult tasks and harsh working conditions create a myriad of problems for these children such as premature aging, drug dependency, depression, etc. These children are mostly from poor backgrounds, belonging to minority groups, or abducted from their families.
Child Labor Laws
- The Child Labor Act, 1986 – According to this act no child can be employed below the age of fourteen years for the work which involves the use of a hazardous substance which can pose a risk to the health of children and the list of the works that comes under hazardous acts are-
- Handling of toxic or inflammable substances or explosives;
- Handloom and power loom industry;
- Mines (underground and underwater) and collieries;
- Plastic units and fiberglass workshops.
And various others that come under this list are given in the act. According to section 3 of this act if anyone violates the provisions of this act will be punished with 3 months of imprisonment which can extend up to 1 year or with a fine of Rs. 10,000 which can extend up to Rs. 20,000 or with both.
- The Factories Act, 1948 – This act prohibits the employment of any children below the age of 14 years in any kind of factory.
- The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 – According to this act every child up to the age of 14 years is entitled to free education and this has been raised to the level of fundamental right under Article 21-A. Also, this act ensures 25% of seats of the private institutions are reserved for poor children and it also ensures that no child is deprived of Education on the basis of his/her financial conditions.
- The Juvenile Justice of Children Act, 2000 – This act penalized the offense of child labor, and anyone who violates the provision of this act shall be penalized with imprisonment for a certain term or fine or with both.
- The Mines Act, 1948 – This act basically prohibits any children below the age of 18 years to work in any kind of mines as it is one of the most dangerous occupations. There have been numerous instances of accidents which took place earlier where children were involved and they got severely injured or even killed NG
Child Protection under the Indian Constitution
The constitutional provisions dealing with the welfare of children are -:
- Article 15(3) empowers the state to make special provisions for women and children.
- Article 21A, introduced in the 86th constitutional amendment, provides that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age group of 6-14 years in such manner as the state may, by law, determine.
- Article 24 prohibits the employment of children in factories, mines, agriculture, etc.
- Article 39, under clause (e) and (f), obligates the state to safeguard the health of children and afford opportunities to grow with dignity.
- Article 45 provides for free and compulsory education for children.
Role of NGOs in Curbing Child Labor
- Implementations of Policies – NGOs constantly try to pressurize the government to introduce new policies and laws that aim to protect children from this evil and end this evil that destroys the lives of various children.
- Creating Awareness – NGOs perform plays in various areas to spread awareness among people and to make them understand how does child labor impacts a child’s physical and psychological state. NGOs also publish articles to spread the word among people about the sad plight of poor children.
- Private Donations – NGOs ask for donations from people and tie-up with big organizations and organizations provide donations to curb this evil. NGOs also donate money to help children by paying for their education, food, and various expenses and spread awareness among them by telling them the importance of education, etc.
Having so many laws and NGOs working towards eradicating child labor in our country but still there is a rise in child labor in our country. 80% of children below the age of 14 years are engaged in child labor and are based in rural areas, coming across any child working at a tea shop, stone quarry, bangle factory, etc. isn’t rare.
Despite so many efforts child labor still remains a problem and a poor conviction rate of violators is a major problem besides unemployment, poverty, etc. and a survey shows that between 2015 and 2018 there was only a 25 percent rate of conviction of the cases where laws made for prevention of child labor were violated.
Suggestions To Curb Child Labor
- Spread Awareness – Making aware people about the situation of child labor will be a great help to make the situation better, especially when the parents are made aware of the evil like child labor. It might help them to send their children to school rather than sending their children to work in such hazardous surroundings. Because if there is a lack of understanding among the parents then it makes the situation more difficult because then the traffickers prey upon children and many children end up in child labor. NGOs also use community events, plays, etc. to educate people about the importance of child rights and the importance of education.
- Increasing Literacy Rate – Getting more and more children in schools making them understand the importance of education to have a bright future will make them encouraged and more eager to attain education and not fall into the trap of child labour. India has one of the best education systems yet there is a low literacy rate in India, one of the main reasons behind it is low enrollment in schools, many organizations are trying to make the poor children’s enrollment in schools.
- More Effective laws and Better Implementation – There should be more focus on better implementation and better enforcement of the existing child labor laws. Some amendments need to be made in the existing laws for example the age of the child provided under the Child Labor Act, 1986 which is 14 years, should be changed to 18 years.
- More Employment Opportunities – Only spreading awareness and increasing literacy won’t overcome hunger, to overcome child labor government needs to provide jobs to jobless parents of children or if the government can at least bear the expenses of the child till a certain age similar to the practice that is happening in many of the other countries.
The above suggestions need to be taken into consideration for having a better future for poor children and every other child who is already stuck in the web of child labor.
- https://www.humanium.org/en/child-labour-definition/ (Last visited on 13 September 2020).
- https://laborcenter.uiowa.edu/special-projects/child-labor-public-education-project/about-child-labor/causes-child-labor (Last visited on 14 September 2020).
- https://www.latestlaws.com/bare-acts/central-acts-rules/children-laws/legal-provision-related-children/ (Last visited 14 September 2020).
- https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/14443/14/14_chapter%206.pdf (Last visited 14 September 2020).
BY- Kashish Dhawan | Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU, Delhi