● Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment. Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.
● In absolute terms, almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is to be found in Africa; 62.1 million in the Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.
● Almost half of all 152 million children victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years. 42 million (28%) are 12-14 years old, and 37 million (24%) are 15-17 years old.
● Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls.
● 58% of all children in child labour and 62% of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labour.
These are just a few of the facts collected by the international labour organisation a body of the united nations on child labour all over the world. In today’s day and age, these facts might seem to be a bit hard to digest but they are true. Children all over the world are still victims of child labour be it in industries, services or domestic work.
To prevent and eradicate child labour from the world ILO has established as world day against child labour.
What is child labour?
The term ‘child labour’, suggests ILO is best defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, or work whose schedule interferes with their ability to attend regular school or work that affects in any manner their ability to focus during war and clubs and Boutros, school or experience a healthy childhood.
UNICEF defines child labour differently. A child, suggests UNICEF, is involved in child labour activities if between 5 and 11 years of age, he or she did at least one hour of economic activity or at least 28 hours of domestic work in a week, and in case of children between 12 and 14 years of age, he or she did at least 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of economic activity and domestic work per week. UNICEF in another report suggests, “Children’s work needs to be seen as happening along a continuum, with destructive or exploitative work at one end and beneficial work – promoting or enhancing children’s development without interfering with their schooling, recreation and rest – at the other. And between these two poles are vast areas of work that need not negatively affect a child’s development.”
World day against child labour is an International Labour Organization (ILO)-sanctioned holiday first launched in 2002 aiming to raise awareness and activism to prevent child labour. It was spurred by ratifications of ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment and ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour.
The World Day Against Child Labour, which is held every year on June 12, is intended to foster the worldwide movement against child labour in any of its forms. This day brings together governments, local authorities, civil society and international, workers and employers organizations to point out the child labour problem and define the guidelines to help child labourers.
According to ILO’s data, hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are involved in work that deprives them of receiving an adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating this way their rights. Of these children, more than half are exposed to the worst forms of child labour. These worst forms of child labour include work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour. Specifically, target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls on the global community to: “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.
This year, the World Day Against Child Labour and the World Day for Safety and Health at Work shine a spotlight on the global need to improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labour. This joint campaign aims to accelerate action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal target 8.8 of safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030 and SDG target 8.7 of ending all forms of child labour by 2025. Achieving these goals for the benefit of the next generation of the global workforce requires a concerted and integrated approach to eliminating child labour and promoting a culture of prevention on occupational safety health.
Children who are free from the burden of child labour are able to fully realize their rights to education, leisure, and healthy development, in turn providing the essential foundation for broader social and economic development, poverty eradication, and human rights.
Child labour laws in India
After its independence from colonial rule, India has passed a number of constitutional protections and laws on child labour. The Constitution of India in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy prohibits child labour below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or castle or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Article 24). The constitution also envisioned that India shall, by 1960, provide infrastructure and resources for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to 14 years. (Article 21-A and Article 45).
India has a federal form of government, and labour is a subject in the Concurrent List, both the central and state governments can and have legislated on child labour. The major national legislative developments include the following:-
● The Factories Act of 1948: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also placed rules on who, when and how long can pre-adults aged 15–18 years be employed in any factory.
● The Mines Act of 1952: The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine.
● The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, amended in 2016 (“CLPR Act”), a “Child” is defined as any person below the age of 14 and the CLPR Act prohibits employment of a Child in any employment including as a domestic help (except helping own family in non-hazardous occupations). It is a cognizable criminal offence to employ a Child for any work. Children between the age of 14 and 18 are defined as “Adolescent” and the law allows Adolescent to be employed except in the listed hazardous occupation and processes which include mining, inflammable substance and explosives-related work and any other hazardous process as per the Factories Act, 1948.
● The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2015: This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to keep a child in bondage for the purpose of employment.
● The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: The law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also mandated that 25 per cent of seats in every private school must be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children. (It is not applied through)
● India formulated a National Policy on Child Labour in 1987. This Policy seeks to adopt a gradual & sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations. It envisioned strict enforcement of Indian laws on child labour combined with development programs to address the root causes of child labour such as poverty. In 1988, this led to the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) initiative. This legal and development initiative continues, with a current central government funding of Rs. 6 billion, targeted solely to eliminate child labour in India. Despite these efforts, child labour remains a major challenge for India. No, child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any hazardous employment
The presence of a large number of child labourers is regarded as a serious issue in terms of economic welfare. Children who work fail to get necessary education. They do not get the opportunity to develop physically, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically. In terms of the physical condition of children, children are not ready for long monotonous work because they become exhausted more quickly than adults. This reduces their physical conditions and makes the children more vulnerable to disease.
Children in hazardous working conditions are even in worse condition. Children who work, instead of going to school, will remain illiterate which limits their ability to contribute to their own well being as well as to community they live in. Child labour has long-term adverse effects for India.
To keep an economy prospering, a vital criterion is to have an educated workforce equipped with relevant skills for the needs of the industries. The young labourers today, will be part of India’s human capital tomorrow. Child labour undoubtedly results in a trade-off with human capital accumulation. Child labour in India are employed with the majority (70%) in agriculture some in low-skilled labour-intensive sectors such as sari weaving or as domestic helpers, which require neither formal education nor training, but some in heavy industry such as coal mining.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are tremendous economic benefits for developing nations by sending children to school instead of work. Without education, children do not gain the necessary skills such as English literacy and technical aptitude that will increase their productivity to enable them to secure higher-skilled jobs in future with higher wages that will lift them out of poverty.
NGOs such as Care India, Child Rights and You, Global March against Child Labour have been implemented to combat child labour through education and accessibility to resources. However, these efforts have been largely unsuccessful. Many NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, ChildFund, CARE India, Talaash Association, Child Rights and You, Global march against child labour, RIDE India, Childline etc. have been working to eradicate child labour in India.