The term “child labour” is often 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 or harmful to children and/or
- interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
- 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 9 million additional children at risk due to the impact of COVID-19.
- Progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016.
- The incidence of hazardous work in countries affected by armed conflict is 50% higher than the global average.
- 30 million children live outside their country of birth, increasing their risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation and other work.
Child labour in India
According to data from Census 2011, the number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls. A total of 152 million children – 64 million girls and 88 million boys – are estimated to be in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in ten of all children worldwide.
Despite rates of child labour declining over the last few years, children are still being used in some severe forms of child labour such as bonded labour, child soldiers, and trafficking. Across India, child labourers can be found in a variety of industries: brick kilns, carpet weaving, garment making, domestic service, food and refreshment services (such as tea stalls), agriculture, fisheries, and mining. Children are also at risk of various other forms of exploitation including sexual exploitation and production of child pornography, including online. Child labor and exploitation are the results of many factors, including poverty, social norms condoning them, lack of decent work opportunities for adults and adolescents, migration, and emergencies. These factors are not only the cause but also a consequence of social inequities reinforced by discrimination.
How can we stop child labor in India?
- Sending more children to school
India has the world’s largest educational system, yet faces the hurdles of low literacy, due to low enrolment. Organizations like Save the Children execute several initiatives to boost children’s enrolment in schools. The organization maps out-of-school children and those who are at risk of dropping out and ensures that they enter into the fold of education.
- More stringent laws and effective implementation
Policymaking is essential to long-lasting social change, and lobbying for better laws involves demonstrating how change can bring considerable benefit. The government should be strict with all the laws and take heavy actions against the lawbreakers.
- Spread awareness
Parental awareness of the evils of child labor can prevent disruption in schooling and the pushing of children into labor. Lack of understanding on the part of parents creates situations where traffickers prey upon children and many trafficked children end up in child labor. Aware communities can comprehend and respond to children’s issues much more effectively.
- Discouraging people to employ children in homes, shops, factories, etc
Child labor gets a resounding approval when Indian businesses openly use it, in industries like retail, hospitality, and menial work. NGOs today sensitize trade organizations to end this social evil and educate locals about reporting instances of child labor at businesses and homes. Save the Children has to its credit getting India’s biggest IT market declared child-labor-free.
( Reference from UNICEF and UNICEF India)