WHAT IS CHILD LABOUR?
According to the Constitution of India and Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, a child is a person below 14 years of age. According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), child labour is the work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) defines child labour as children 5-11 years exceeding 1 hour of economic activity or 28 hours of domestic work per week, or children 12-14 years, 14 hours of economic activity or 42 hours of domestic work per week.
Work in the house, farms, local shops on weekends is not considered child labour; but a child working everyday in factories, mines or selling goods at streets and signals, comes under child labour. As per the census in 2011, the total child population in India in the age group 5 to 14 years is 259.6 million and of these 10.1 million (4% of total child population) are working either as main or marginal workers, of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls. Child labour hampers education and gaining the skills children need to have future opportunities of decent work as an adult.
TYPES OF CHILD LABOUR:
According to ILO, the worst types of child labour are:
- Slavery: Slavery is when one person works for another person. Slaves don’t have the power to demand anything. They have to work according to the commands of their master and they are not allowed to leave or to refuse to work.
- Child Trafficking: Buying and selling of children either for labour or for sexual exploitation.
- Debt Bondage: When work is exchanged to pay off loans that people cannot pay off with money or goods. Sometimes poor families exchange their children to work under someone until the debt is cleared.
- Serfdom: When a person works on land belonging to another person is known as serfdom. The labour will be provided with little or no pay.
- Forced Labour: When a child works against his or her wish then it is termed as forced labour.
- Beggary: When poor parents don’t have any other way to earn their livelihood, they often beg on roads. Sometimes they also cut their child’s body part in order to gain sympathy and to get more money. Small children are seen on streets or signals asking for money for their treatments.
Children are also involved in other crimes such as robbery, shoplifting, burglary, hijacking cars, theft, buying stolen goods etc.
ACTS FOR PROHIBITION OF CHILD LABOUR:
- Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 provides for punishment and penalties for employing children below 14 years in certain occupations.
- Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by India in 1992, all children have the right to be protected from work that is dangerous, or that might harm children’s health or education.
- The Right to Education Act 2009 ensures all children of 6 to 14 years have the right to free and compulsory education.
- Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Bill 2012 seeks to eliminate child labour altogether below the age of 14 years.
- Article 24 in Constitution of India prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory, mine or other hazardous activities like construction work, but it does not prohibit their employment in any harmless work.
CAUSES OF CHILD LABOUR:
Poverty is the main reason behind many problems which most of the people of our country are facing. It is the greatest force which drives children into the workplace. Due to poverty, parents cannot afford the studies of their children and make them earn their wages from a very early age. When families cannot afford to meet their basic needs like food, education or health care, they don’t have any other choice and they send their small children to work in factories, homes and shops to supplement the household income. These decisions are taken by their parents only for the purpose of increasing the income of their poor families. But such activities make the children lose their childhood at an early age and harm their physical and mental state.
- LACK OF EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES:
Even after 75 years of our country’s independence, there are many children who are still deprived of fundamental right to education. Still there are many villages in our country where there is no proper facility for education. In many villages, schools are miles away. Sometimes the lack of affordable school for the education of poor children are the reason behind their illiteracy. Because of these reasons children are forced to live without studying and such compulsions push them into the trap of child labour in India.
- FAMILY TRADITION:
It is a bitter truth of our society that child labour is done in the name of tradition in many families. Many families believe that a good life is not in their destiny, and their family tradition of labour work is the only source of their livelihood. Their traditional and cultural family values increase the problem of child labour in India. A small businessman also wants his child perpetuate their family trade with lower production costs. Some families believe that working from an early age will make their children more diligent. But they are not aware about the physical and mental harm their child is facing because of that.
children’s personal development, which will make it easier for them to plan their life ahead.
- SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC BACKWARDNESS:
Social and economic backwardness is one of the main reasons for child labour in India. Socially backward parents are not aware about the value of education. So they do not send their children to schools and consequently, their children are trapped in child labour. Due to illiteracy, many times parents are not aware about the schemes for child education. Also, when the parents are not educated, they do not know about the impact of child labour on their children. The conditions of poverty, lack of education, illiteracy and the lack of awareness of the rights give rural families a compulsive basis for engaging children in various tasks.
- HUGE DEMAND FOR UNSKILLED LABOURERS:
The demand for unskilled labourers is another root cause of child labour in India. Children are mostly unskilled and provide a cheap source of labour, making them an easy option for many employers. Child labour, because of being cheap, increases the margin of profits for such greedy entrepreneurs whose only objective is profit maximization. These types of employers also force children to work under unfavourable conditions through threats or manipulation.
- CHILD SEX WORKERS:
Often, girls who attained the age of puberty are and forced into prostitution in lieu of a promise that they would be given opportunities to do glamorous jobs. Sometimes they are kidnapped and tricked in the sex activities to procure basic needs like food and shelter.
CONSEQUENCES OF CHILD LABOUR:
- HEALTH ISSUES:
Child labour leads to many health complications. Children are undernourished and because of poor working conditions, they face physical and mental harm. Working in places such as factories and mines may result in lifetime health issues for children. They suffer serious injuries in mining accidents. Sometimes it causes death or serious fractures. When a child is assigned with physically demanding duties, he or she may suffer physical trauma that may scare him or her for life. Also sexual abuse at workplace causes sexually transmitted diseases (like AIDS).
- LOSS OF QUALITY CHILDHOOD:
It is important for humans to enjoy every stage of their growth. A child should have fun with his or her friends and create memories that will last a lifetime. Youths should learn about life and lay strong foundations for their adult lives. But child labour leads to a loss of quality childhood since children are deprived of the great experiences that come with being young. Children are encouraged to play since it helps in their development and growth. Many of the positive aspects of childhood will be lost if a child is pushed to work.
- MENTAL TRAUMA:
It is not a good experience to be forced to labour as a child while your peers are off having fun and attending school. Children also lack the ability to protect themselves from the majority of professional problems in the workplace. Bullying, sexual exploitation, and poor working hours all have the potential to cause mental damage in these children. They will have a difficult time forgetting their history and may become social outcasts as a result of their negative childhood experiences. Child labour can also lead to a lack of emotional development and, as a result, insensitivity and hopelessness.
Working children do not have the time to attend school. As the days and years pass, they spend more and more time at their desks. They have limited employment prospects due to their lack of education and illiteracy. Education also prepares a person for a variety of societal obstacles, and without it, one may find himself/herself lacking in the fundamental abilities needed to solve many of life’s problems. A person who has attended school may be knowledgeable of how to face certain life problems without resorting to violence. An illiterate person, on the other hand, believes force to be the only solution to nearly all the problems.
- DRUGS AND ALCOHOLISM:
Many children who are forced into child labour adopt drug abuse to escape from their cruel reality. Peer pressure, stress and depression are factors that push their children doing labour to try and continue using drugs. Also the children usually don’t have any bank accounts or any means to save their money and hence they feel compelled to spend their earnings, afraid that it may get snatched or stolen.
- START WITH YOURSELF:
Keep in mind that change begins with you. Do not use a child to clean your house, care for your children, wash your car, or do your dishes. Hire unprivileged individuals who are looking for jobs to help support their families instead. While there are humanitarian reasons for doing so, keep in mind that child labour is illegal!
- EXPANDED EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES:
Taking children out of child labour does not guarantee that they will attend school. Because schooling can be costly or of poor quality or may be far away from their residences. Some parents believe that putting their children to work is the best option. Both large and small businesses can help by raising awareness about the value of education in their workplaces, communities, industries or sectors.
- BOOST ECONOMIC GROWTH:
Even if they attend school, 7.8 million Indian children are forced to work to support their families. Many of these children abandon their education altogether and end up working as children. This indicates that the country lacks educated persons who can contribute to the nation-building process and economic prosperity.
- EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE LAWS:
One of the first steps in making our society free of child labour is to educate yourself about the provisions in our Constitution that protect children, as well as the various laws in place to prevent their exploitation and ensure that offenders are prosecuted. Once you are aware of this, you will be able to recognize the situation and alert offenders nearby.
- MORAL POLISHING:
Child labour is both illegal and unethical, and should be avoided at all circumstances. Instead of acquiring an education and enjoying their childhood, children should not be compelled to work. Factory owners and shopkeepers should not employ children. Child labour’s negative impacts should be taught in society so that it becomes an issue that is frowned upon whenever it occurs. This type of moral polishing would dissuade people from using minors and using them as a source of cheap labour. Many of society’s problems arise as a result of people turning a blind eye or failing to consider the moral implications of their actions. Child labour will be drastically reduced in our communities if we take this strategy.
- CREATE A NEED FOR SKILLED WORKERS:
Because almost all child labourers are unskilled, increasing a market for qualified and trained workers will reduce the number of occurrences of child labour. Adult employment will result as the demand for trained labour develops. The establishment of skill-based learning centres, vocational training centres, and technical training institutions improves literacy and expands the labour market’s availability of skilled and trained workers. Another option for reducing unemployment and increasing household income is for the government to create job opportunities. This type of government action raises living conditions and reduces the need for children to work to support their families.
- RAISE AWARENESS:
Parental awareness of the dangers of child labour can help to prevent disturbances in the classroom and child labour. Child traffickers prey on children due to parents’ lack of awareness, and many trafficked youngsters end up working as minors. Communities that are aware of the issues that children encounter are better able to understand and respond to them. As a result of increased awareness, communities are more likely to take advantage of opportunities for growth, education, employment, and enterprise, resulting in a more socially and economically developed society with fewer children suffering. NGOs use community activities, sports, the arts, and theatre to educate communities on the importance of children’s rights. NGOs also provide money, educational supplies, and information services, all with the purpose of helping children and their communities’ progress. We can also associate with some of these NGOs to spread awareness.
Child labour exists because we allow it to exist. Everyone accepts it but make excuses. But there should not be any excuse. Child labour is a symbol of a society that has lost its path, as well as a violation of a child’s rights. As a result, we should all work to guarantee that children’s fundamental rights are respected and that they are given the opportunity to pursue their dreams and aspirations. When the younger generation has a strong foundation for success, the future is much brighter. The innocence of a child should never be taken away from them in order to make young people’s lives easier. It is both unacceptable and unfair. The Indian government has implemented a number of proactive laws aimed at ending child labour. As a possible solution to this chronic problem, the Central Government and the respective state government will still have to prepare a more effective action plan under the guidance and supervision of the International Labour Organization. As a responsible citizen, it is our duty to contribute in the eradication of child labour as much as possible. If you ever come across or find any orphan or a child in who may be having difficulties financially who is being forced to work and denied education, or is living in poor conditions, kindly call the child helpline number 1098.
Prepared By – Puspanjali Maharana