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Child Labour risen to 160 million says ILO & UNICEF joint report

Child Labour risen to 160 million says ILO & UNICEF joint report


  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Vulnerable Sections || Children & Child Labor

Why in the news?

The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF

Understanding all about Child labour:

What is child labour?

  • Child labor is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as employment that robs children of their youth, their potential, and their dignity, as well as harming their physical and mental development.
  • Child labor, on the other hand, is not defined as employment that has no negative impact on a children or adolescent’s health or development, or interferes with their education. For instance, supporting their parents at home, assisting relatives, or earning pocket money outside of school hours and during vacations.

Nature of child labour in India:

  • Workplace Changes: Children are increasingly involved in home-based labor and the informal economy. The shift in the nature of child labor is mostly due to the enforcement of laws and increased consumer awareness of child exploitation.
  • Work in Rural-Urban Regions: A high proportion of youngsters jobs in manual household work, rag picking, restaurants, and automobile repair businesses in urban areas.
    • Children work in the agricultural sector, including cotton farming, glass, match box, brass, and lock-making industries, needlework, rag-picking, beedi-rolling, carpet-making, mining and stone quarrying, brick kilns, and tea plantations, among other things.
  • Gender: There is a gender divide in labor, with females doing more domestic and home-based work and boys working as wage laborers.
  • Bonded child labor: Bonded child labor refers to the employment of a person in exchange for a loan, debt, or social responsibility owed by the kid’s family or the family as a whole. Bonded child laborers are frequently found in the agriculture sector, as well as in brick kilns and stone quarries, supporting their family. According to the Bound Labour Liberation Front, India has 10 million bonded children.
  • Migrant children: Migrant children are frequently forced to drop out of school and are almost always compelled to work on construction projects.

What are causes of child labour in India?

  • Strong jobs competition: In India, industrialists have been effective in exploiting this disadvantage encountered by job seekers. Because of the huge population, job seekers are unable to negotiate a higher salary.As a result, the poor continue to be poor, earning low salaries.
  • Poverty:Poverty is the most common cause of child labor in India. Though the country has made significant progress in terms of industrialisation, the advantages have not been successfully passed on to the lower classes. Even major firms utilize unorganized employees through contractors, who obtain illiterate, unskilled, and semi-skilled individuals at extremely low prices, in order to keep expenses down.
  • Illiteracy and ignorance of the child’s parents: The issue is made worse by the child’s parents’ illiteracy. Because of their illiteracy and lack of understanding of the detrimental repercussions of child labor, they break the law and expose their children to inhumane exploitation.
  • Lack of access to basic and relevant quality education and skills training: The current educational infrastructure is ill-suited to the needs of children from low-income families. Increasing dropout rates and forced child labor have resulted from the poor quality of schooling.The 15-18 age range is not covered by compulsory schooling.
  • Increased demand for child labor, particularly in metropolitan areas, is a major contributor to the prevalence and growth of child labor. Children are hired because they are inexpensive and adaptable to the needs of the employer, and they are unaware of their legal rights.
  • Social factors: India’s diverse social structure and child labor have a strong relationship. In India, the majority of child laborers are from the so-called lower castes (SCs), as well as the tribal and Muslim religious minorities.
  • Cultural factors: The assumption that children contribute to the families and community’s financial survival, as well as the presence of large families, contribute to the prevalence of child labor.From an early age, children frequently take over their families’ customary labor. A goldsmith’s son, for example, may begin goldsmithing at a young age, while a carpenter’s child may begin carpentry at a young age.

Articles related to Child labour in India:

  • Article 14 (No child under the age of 14 should be employed in any industry or mine, or in any other hazardous occupation).
  • Article 39-E (The state shall direct its policies toward ensuring that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and children of a young age are not mistreated, and that they are not pushed by economic necessity to undertake occupations unsuited to their area and strength.).
  • Article 39-F (Children must be provided with opportunity and facilities to develop in a healthy and dignified way, and childhood and youth must be protected from moral and material abandonment.)
  • Article 45 (The state shall try to offer free and compulsory education for all children until they reach the age of fourteen years within 10 years of the constitution’s adoption.) The Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act of 1986 and the Factories Act of 1948 are the two most important pieces of legislation at the national level.

National Legislations regarding Child Labour:

  • National Policy on Child Labor (1987), which focuses on the rehabilitation of such children.
  • Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015.
  • India has ratified two ILO (International Labour Organization) conventions on child labor, namely the Minimum Age Convention of 1993 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention of 1999.
  • The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act of 2016 modifies the 1986 Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. The main changes include extending the 14-year-old work prohibition to all industries, restricting the employment of adolescents’ aged 14 to 18 in risky vocations, and prohibiting the employment of adolescents aged 14 to 18 in hazardous occupations.Introduces harsher penalties for violators, including a six-month to two-year prison sentence and a fine of up to Rs 50,000.
  • The bill creates a new category of people known as “adolescents.” A person between the ages of 14 and 18 is referred to as an adolescent. The bill forbids the employment of teenagers in certain dangerous jobs (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes).
  • Under the Factories Act, it reduces the number of dangerous jobs from 83 to just three: mining, inflammable substances, and hazardous processes, with the centre deciding which activities are harmful.

International legislation for child labour:

  • 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child: Children are entitled to particular care and assistance, according to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was approved in 1948. The 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child incorporated the aforementioned principles, as well as other universal declaration issues concerning children..
  • In 1989, the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) was adopted: It lays out the civil, political, economic, cultural, social, and health rights of children. The government is required under Article 32 to protect children from hazardous or dangerous work that might affect their health or education.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions: The two Core Conventions directly related to child work are ILO Conventions 138 (Minimum Age Convention) and 182 (Child Labour Convention) (Worst forms of Child Labour Convention). India has ratified both of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Core Conventions.
  • ILO Convention upon Child Labour:
    • India has ratified the two most important ILO Conventions on the abolition of child labor: ILO Convention No.138, which requires States Parties to establish a minimum age below which no one shall be admitted to employment or work in any occupation, with the exception of light work and artistic performances.
    • Convention No. 182 is a treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom. The latter asks for the ban and abolition of the worst types of child labor, such as slavery, forced labor, and trafficking; the employment of children in armed conflicts; the use of children for prostitution, pornography, and illegal enterprises (such as drug trafficking); and hazardous work.

Despite the law there are challenges:

  • The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act of 2016 addresses the following issues:Employers in sectors such as chemical mixing units, cotton farms, battery recycling facilities, and brick kilns may be able to hire teenage labor at a lower cost now that the list of dangerous industries has been substantially reduced. Furthermore, the amendment enables children to work in “family or family enterprises,” raising concerns about the widespread use of child labor in agrarian rural India, where impoverished families are enslaved by intergenerational debt.
  • Weak law enforcement and weak governance: A key impediment to ending child labor is a lack of appropriate deterrent, as well as corruption.
  • Lack of identity: In India, due to a lack of identifying documents, determining the age of children is difficult. The lack of school registration cards and birth certificates among child laborers creates an easy legal gap to exploit. Furthermore, children of migrant workers who work as laborers or in domestic services are frequently unreported.
  • One of the most difficult issues in ending child labor is the ambiguity around the definition of a child in terms of age in various legislation dealing with child labor.


Child labor is a multifaceted, complicated problem that is deeply embedded in the socioeconomic fabric of society. Because there are several variables that contribute to this complicated issue, tackling and combating child labor need a comprehensive, integrated approach. Only through bringing about behavioral change, societal awareness, and a concerted campaign against the problem of child abuse can this be accomplished. As a result, it necessitates sincere effort as well as strong dedication and support from all parties involved.

Mains oriented question:

Child labor has been decreasing in recent years as a result of government laws and involvement, but the epidemic has reversed this trend in India,” Illustrate. (250 words)