An estimated 158 million children aged 5-14 are engaged in child labour - one in
six children in the world. Millions of children are engaged in hazardous situations
or conditions, such as working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in
agriculture or working with dangerous machinery. They are everywhere but
invisible, toiling as domestic servants in homes, labouring behind the walls of
workshops, hidden from view in plantations.
In Sub-Saharan Africa around one in three children are engaged in child labour,
representing 69 million children.
In South Asia, another 44 million are engaged in child labour.
The latest national estimates for this indicator are reported in Table 9 (Child
Protection) of UNICEF's annual publication The State of the World's Children.
Children living in the poorest households and in rural areas are most likely to be
engaged in child labour. Those burdened with household chores are
overwhelmingly girls. Millions of girls who work as domestic servants are
especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Labour often interferes with children’s education. Ensuring that all children go to
school and that their education is of good quality are keys to
preventing child labour.
Wasim, a child labourer working at a tea stall; India, 9 July 2010
Earning on the streets
What is Child Labour?
Child labour refers to the
of children at regular and
sustained labour. This
practice is considered
exploitative by many
organizations and is
illegal in many countries.
Child labour was utilized
to varying extents
through most of history,
but entered public
dispute with the advent
of universal schooling,
with changes in working
the industrial revolution,
and with the emergence
of the concepts
and children's rights.
Child labour in India
Child labor in India is a human right issue for the whole world. It is a serious
and extensive problem, with many children under the age of fourteen working
in carpet making factories, glass blowing units and making fireworks with bare
little hands. According to the statistics given by Indian government there are
20 million child laborers in the country, while other agencies claim that it is 50
The situation of child laborers in India is desperate. Children work for eight hours
at a stretch with only a small break for meals. The meals are also frugal and the
children are ill nourished. Most of the migrant children who cannot go home,
sleep at their work place, which is very bad for their health and development.
Seventy five percent of Indian population still resides in rural areas and are very
poor. Children in rural families who are ailing with poverty perceive their
children as an income generating resource to supplement the family income.
Parents sacrifice their children’s education to the growing needs of their younger
siblings in such families and view them as wage earners for the entire clan.
The Indian government has tried to take some steps to alleviate the problem of
child labor in recent years by invoking a law that makes the employment of
children below 14 illegal, except in family owned enterprises. However this
law is rarely adhered to due to practical difficulties. Factories usually find
loopholes and circumvent the law by declaring that the child laborer is a
distant family member. Also in villages there is no law implementing
mechanism, and any punitive actions for commercial enterprises violating
these laws is almost non existent.
Child labor is a conspicuous problem in India. Its prevalence is evident in the
child work participation rate, which is more than that of other developing
countries. Poverty is the reason for child labor in India. The meager income of
child laborers is also absorbed by their families. The paucity of organized
banking in the rural areas creates a void in taking facilities, forcing poor
families to push their children in harsh labor, the harshest being bonded labor.
In Northern India the exploitation of little
children for labor is an accepted practice
and perceived by the local population as a
necessity to alleviate poverty. Carpet
weaving industries pay very low wages to
child laborers and make them work for
long hours in unhygienic conditions.
Children working in such units are mainly
migrant workers from Northern India, who
are shunted here by their families to earn
some money and send it to them. Their
families dependence on their income,
forces them to endure the onerous work
conditions in the carpet factories.
Causes of Child Labour
Some common causes of child labor are poverty, parental illiteracy, social apathy,
ignorance, lack of education and exposure, exploitation of cheap and unorganized
labor. The family practice to inculcate traditional skills in children also pulls little
ones inexorably in the trap of child labor, as they never get the opportunity to
learn anything else.
Absence of compulsory education at the primary level, parental ignorance regarding
the bad effects of child labor, the ineffictivity of child labor laws in terms of
implementation, non availability and non accessibility of schools, boring and
unpractical school curriculum and cheap child labor are some other factors which
encourages the phenomenon of child labor. It is also very difficult for immature
minds and undeveloped bodies to understand and organize them selves against
exploitation in the absence of adult guidance.
Poverty and over population have been identified as the two main causes of child
labor. Parents are forced to send little children into hazardous jobs for reasons of
survival, even when they know it is wrong. Monetary constraints and the need for
food, shelter and clothing drives their children in the trap of premature labor. Over
population in some regions creates paucity of resources. When there are limited
means and more mouths to feed children are driven to commercial activities and not
provided for their development needs. This is the case in most Asian and African
Illiterate and ignorant parents do not understand the need for wholesome proper
physical, cognitive and emotional development of their child. They are themselves
uneducated and unexposed, so they don’t realize the importance of education for
Adult unemployment and urbanization also causes child
labor. Adults often find it difficult to find jobs because factory
owners find it more beneficial to employ children at cheap
rates. This exploitation is particularly visible in garment
factories of urban areas. Adult exploitation of children is also
seen in many places. Elders relax at home and live on the
labor of poor helpless children.
The industrial revolution has also had a negative effect by
giving rise to circumstances which encourages child labor.
Sometimes multinationals prefer to employ child workers in
the developing countries. This is so because they can be
recruited for less pay, more work can be extracted from
them and there is no union problem with them. This attitude
also makes it difficult for adults to find jobs in factories,
forcing them to drive their little ones to work to keep the fire
burning their homes.
Child Labour Policy in India
There are specific clauses in the draft of Indian constitution dated 26th
January 1950, about the child labor policy in India. These are conveyed
through different articles in the Fundamental rights and the Directive
Principles of the State Policy. They lay down four specific policy rules
regarding child labor.
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 hazardous
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 unsuited to there are 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
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
The main legislative measures at the national level
are The Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act -
1986 and The Factories Act -1948. The first act was
categorical in prohibiting the employment of
children below fourteen years of age, and identified
57 processes and 13 occupations which were
considered dangerous to the health and lives of
children. The details of these occupations and
processes are listed in the schedule to the said Act.
The factories act again prohibits the employment of
children less than fourteen years of age. However an
adolescent aged between 15 and 18 can be
recruited for factory employment only after securing
a fitness certificate from a medical doctor who is
authorized. The Act proceeds to prescribe only four
and and hour’s work period per day for children
between 14 and 18 years. Children are also not
allowed to work in night shifts.
Moreover, in the year 1996 the Supreme
Court of India came out with a judgment in
court that directed the State and Union
government to make a list of all children
embroiled in hazardous occupations and
processes. They were then told to pull them
out of work and asked to provide them with
proper education of quality. The judiciary also
laid down that Child Labor and Welfare Fund
is set up. The contribution for this was to be
received from employers who contravened
the Child Labor Act.
Government policies and programmes
In pursuance of India's development goals and strategies, a National Child Labour Policy was adopted in 1987
following the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. The national policy reiterates the directive principle
of state policy in India's Constitution. It resolves to focus general development programmes to benefit children
wherever possible and have project based action plans in areas of high concentration of child labour engaged in
The Ministry of Labour and Employment has been implementing the national policy through the establishment of
National Child Labour Projects (NCLPs) for the rehabilitation of child workers since 1988. Initially, these projects were
industry specific and aimed at rehabilitating children working in traditional child labour endemic industries. A renewed
commitment to fulfil the constitutional mandate resulted in enlarging the ambit of the NCLPs in 1994 to rehabilitate
children working in hazardous occupations in child labour endemic districts.
The strategy for the NCLPs includes the establishment of special schools to provide non-formal education and pre-
vocational skills training; promoting additional income and employment generation opportunities; raising public
awareness, and conducting surveys and evaluations of child labour.
The experience gained by the Government in running the NCLPs over several years resulted in the continuation and
expansion of the projects during the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1997/02). Around 100 NCLPs were launched across the
country to rehabilitate children working in hazardous industries such as glass and bangles, brassware, locks, carpets,
slate tiles, matches, fireworks, and gems. The Central Government made a budgetary allocation of Rs 2.5 billion
(about US$57 million) for these projects during the Ninth Five-Year Plan. The Government of India has expanded the
coverage of the NCLPs to an additional 150 districts and increase the budgetary allocation to over Rs 6 billion (about
US$131 million) during the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2003/07). Children in the age group of 5 - 9 years were enrolled
directly under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or the Education for All Movement commenced under the 10th Five Year
Plan. Further, those in the age group of 9 - 14 were admitted to special schools under the NCLP schemes. Besides
this, components of healthcare and vocational training were also augmented.
Most significantly in 2001 - 02 the Government launched the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or the Education for All
Programme which is an effort to universalize elementary education. This programme aims to achieve the goal of
universal elementary education of satisfactory quality by 2010.
Schemes for Children under the 10th Five Year plan include the Planning Commission's Integrated Programme for
Street Children which aims to prevent the destitution of children and engineer their withdrawal from streets by
providing facilities like shelter, nutrition, health care, education, recreation and protection against abuse and
exploitation. Accordingly to the Government, during the 10th Five Year Plan, over 200,000 children benefitted from
Further, the Scheme for Working Children in Need of Care and Protection by the Ministry of Women and Child
Development provides non-formal education, vocational training to working children to facilitate their entry into
mainstream education. This scheme has been implemented through NGOs. According to the Government, around
7,000 children benefited from this programme from 2005 - 2007.
The strategy outlined for the 11th Five Year plan (2007 - 12) includes expanding the NCLP scheme to ensure
universal enrolment of children in the 6 - 14 age group to cover those in the hard-to-reach segment. It also includes
substantial improvements in the quality and standard of education and teacher training. Another notable Government
initiative under the 11th plan is to amend all laws to recognize everyone under the age of 18 as children and to take
appropriate measures to protect their rights accordingly. In September 2009, IPEC launched a Convergence Project
against Child Labour which covers 5 States - Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. The project will
Child Protection and Rights
According to International Law, a ‘child’ means every human being below the age of 18 years. Childhood is
characterized as a period of special consideration in human rights terms, as a period of evolving abilities and
vulnerabilities relative to those of adults.
Today this is a universally accepted definition of a child which comes from the United Nations Convention on
the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), an international legal instrument agreed and ratified by 192 States in the
world to promote Child Protection and Child Rights.
What is ‘Child ‘Protection?
Child protection is crucial to ensuring that children under 18 years of age have the rights, confidence and
environment in which they can make choices, express their views and communicate effectively with
other children and adults.
It is a broad term to describe philosophies, policies, standards, guidelines and procedures whose aim is to
protect children from both intentional and unintentional harm and from vulnerability.
Child protection incorporates both prevention and care as well as recovery and rehabilitation aspects.
Children can only become change agents to improve their lives and that of their families and communities
if they are safeguarded from abuse, discrimination and harm of any kind, be it physical, sexual, emotional
What are ‘Child’ Rights?
A right is as an agreement or a “social contract” established between the persons who hold a right
(often referred to as the “rights-holder”) and the persons or institutions which then have obligations
and responsibilities in relation to the realisation of that right (often referred to as the “duty-bearer”.)
Child Rights can be defined as the fundamental, vital freedoms and the inherent rights of all human
beings below the age of 18. These rights apply to every child, irrespective of the child's, parent's /
legal guardian's race, colour, sex, creed or other status.
- Statistics, Newspaper clippings, maps and posters
CHILDLINE 1098 SERVICE
The calls would come late in the night.
"Didi, can you come? There's been a fight at the
"Didi, can you help? The police have battered
And a CHILDLINE volunteer would get up and rush
out to where a street child was waiting. On one of
those dashes across the sleeping city of Mumbai ,
an idea was born.
What street children in Mumbai needed was a
helpline, their own helpline.
In 1996, Mumbai launched CHILDLINE, the
country's first toll-free tele-helpline for street
children in distress. It has responded a total of 15,
883, 547 calls from inception till March 2009 and
operates in 83 cities/districts in 22 States and 3
Union Territories, through its network of 196
partner organisations across India.