Child Labour Review Example

In passing the 86th Amendment to the Constitution of India, education is a fundamental right. This has implications for fulfillment of the obligation of the State to ensure that every child is in school. Since most children who do not attend schools are engaged in some form of work or another, it is essential that there is a comprehensive plan to withdraw children from work and mainstream them into schools. In other words the labour department has a crucial role to abolish child labour in all its forms and ensure that children enjoy their right to education. This is indeed a challenging task, but can be attained with concerted effort and a clear perspective.

1. MAGNITUDE OF THE PROBLEM1.1 Children in the PopulationAs per 2001 Population Census,Percentage of children in totalchildren in the age group of 0-14populationconstituted about 360 million andaccounted for 35.3 percent of totalAge group 19912001 2006*population. Children in the 5-14 age0-412.010.710.4group constituted about 251 million5-913.212.510.7and accounted for 24.6 percent of the

10-1411.912.111.0population. Though there is an5 to 1425.124.621.7increase in the absolute number of0-1437.235.332.1children, the proportion of children inNote: 1991 Population Census figures excludedthe total population is decliningJ & K State and for comparative purposes webetween 1991 and 2001. By Census ofhave excluded figures for J & K for 2001India projections, the proportion ofSource: Population Census 1991 and 2001children (0 to 14) has further come* Population Porjections, Based on 2001Census ofdown to 32.1 percent during 2006.

Elementary school age children (5 to 14) in the total population constituted 241.7 million accounting for 21.7 percent of the total population. This is because of drastic reduction in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in many of the major states, especially in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat. On the other hand TFR remains high in some of the major states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Thus the segment of child population varies across state depending on the TFR. Proportion of children in the population has implications for the incidence of child labour.

1.2 Child Labour in IndiaIndia continues to host the largest number of child labourers in the world today. According to the Census 2001, there were 12.7 million economically active children in the age-group of 5-14 years. The number was 11. 3 million during 1991 (Population Census) thus showing an increase in the number of child labourers. Workers in general


are classified into main and marginal workers1 by the population census. Census data shows that there is a decline in the absolute number as well the percentage of children (5-14) to total population in that age group, classified as main workers from 4.3 percent in 1991 to 2.3 percent in 2001. But there was a substantial increase in marginal workers in every category of worker irrespective of sex and residence. As a result, despite the number of main workers declining from 9.08 million in 1991 to 5.78 million in 2001, the total number of children in the work force increased.

A large part of the increase was accounted for by the increase in marginal workers, which increased from 2.2 million in 1991 to 6.89 million in 2001. Main and Marginal workers put together, the work participation rate (WPR) of children in the 5-14 age group has declined from 5.4 percent during 1991 to 5 percent in 2001. The trends between 1991 and 2001 of declining main child workers along with increasing marginal workers may indicate the changing nature of work done by children. This is also to be seen in the context of decelerating employment growth in general in the economy during the last decade. Changes in Work Participation (Main and Marginal) Rate of Children in different age groups

All India19912001BoysGirlsAllBoys

GirlsAllChildrenChildren5 to to 1410.99.910. to Census of India, 1991 and 2001

However, if we look at the WPR for different age groups among children, the trend is different. The WPR for children in 5 to 9 age group has marginally increased from less than 1 percent during 1991 to 1.4 percent during 2001. In the case of 10-14 years age group children the decline is only marginal – from 10.4 percent during 1991 to 8.7 percent during 2001. This indicates that a substantial number of children in the 10 to 14 age group are in the labour force despite the decline in the proportion of children in the total population. Latest available estimates on WPR children are from the 61stRound of NSSO (2004-05). According to NSSO estimates WPR for children in the 5-9 age group is negligible and for children in the age group of 10-14, it still continues to be significant though declining.


Work has been defined in the Census 2001 as ‘participation in any economically productive activity with or without compensation, wages or profit.’ Such participation could be physical and/or mental in nature. This work includes supervisory work as well as direct participation in the work. For the first time, the Census includes part-time help or unpaid work on the farm, family enterprise or in any other economic activity such as cultivation and milk production for domestic consumption as work. All persons engaged in ‘work’ as defined in the Census are considered workers.

Main workers are defined as those who have worked for the major part of the reference period, that is 6 months or more. And marginal workers are those who have not worked for the major part of the reference period. All those workers who are not cultivators or agricultural labourers or engaged in household industry are categorized as ‘Other Workers’.


Distribution ofChildren

Child Population (5-14)MaleFemaleTotalChild Labour (10-14)

20012006Population PopulationCensus2


% of ChildPopulation











MaleFemaleTotalChildren out of school(5-14)MaleFemaleTotalSource: Census of India, 1991 and 2001

Though there is a declining trend in the incidence of child labour in the country, it has not automatically resulted in bringing all children to school. There were 87 million children (5-14) who were out of school during 2001. NSSO (61st Round) estimates show that the magnitude of out of school children has declined to 43 million by 2004-05. This could be probably because of the efforts of SSA and other initiatives to stop child labour. However, the NSSO estimates show that about one fifth of the girl children in the 5 to 14 age group are not in school.

There seems to be a persisting gender gap. While this is the picture that emerges for the country as a whole, there is a wide variation across states. There are excellently performing states and states that are at the other extreme (see state level estimates of children across states based on NSSO estimates (2004-05) in Annexure I).

1.3 Magnitude of Child Labour across StatesThere is across the board decline in the incidence of child labour in the Southern and Western Indian States and UTs between 1991 and 2001. However, there has been an increasing trend in the Eastern and North Indian States and UTs. While the Kerala and Tamil Nadu stories are well known, it is heartening to see that the state of Andhra 2

Census of India, 2001.Population of children in 2006 is based on the projections of the Report of the technical group on population projections constituted by the National Commission on Population, Population Projections for India and States 2001 -2026 (Revised December 2006), Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Estimates for working children and out of school children are based on NSSO 61st Round , Report Number 515 (61/10/1), “ Employment and Unemployment Situation in India” 2004-05, Part I, Table (19): Per 1000 distribution of persons by usual activity category taking also into consideration the subsidiary economic status of persons categorized ‘not working’ in the principal status for each agegroup. Figures for Children out of school is compiled from NSSO Report No.517/(61/10/3), “Status of Education and Vocational Training in India” 2004-05.



Pradesh, that had a dubious distinction of having the largest child labour force in the country, shows very remarkable reduction in work-force participation, along with a dramatic increase in the enrollment of children in school.

The data from the state of Andhra Pradesh shows that there is both a dramatic increase in the number and percentage of children going to school from 49.18 percent in 1991 to 73.82 percent in 2001.The percentage of children out of school has also declined substantially from 50.81 percent in 1991 to 26.17 percent in 2001. Surprising is the case of Himachal Pradesh, which has shown significant increases in school attendance and in literacy levels.4 However, there is a dramatic increase in the percentage of children in the age-group 5-14 years who are classified as workers, both main and marginal.

In Himachal Pradesh, the percentage of child workers has gone up from 5.5 percent in 1991 to 8.6 percent in 2001.This could also be a result of larger numbers of children combining work with schooling or simply better enumeration of children’s unpaid work. Detailed tables of main and marginal workers by residence and sex for the age-group 5-9 and 10-14 for 1991 and 2001 are at Annexure II. Growth of child labour across States and UTs in India between 1991 and 2001 State/UTs showing % decline in the State/UTs showing % increase in the incidence of child labour during 2001 as incidence of child labour during 2001 as compared to 1991

compared to 1991Dadra & Nagar Haveli (-3.22), Gujarat

Madhya Pradesh (5.71), Assam (7.27),West Bengal (20.43), Punjab (24.08),(-7.27), Goa (-11.3), Karnataka (-15.74),Orissa (-16.53), Andhra Pradesh (-17.97), Tripura (32.03), Uttar Pradesh (41.71), Lakshadweep (20.59), Daman & DiuArunachal Pradesh (49.11), Delhi (53.19),Andaman and Nicobar Islands (54.94),(-22.53), Kerala (-24.84), Tamil NaduMeghalaya (55.75), Mizoram (60.05),(-27.65), Maharashtra (-28.49), and Bihar (61.82), Rajasthan (63.08), Manipur Pondicherry (26.96).(74.84), Himachal Pradesh (90.96),Chandigarh (102.09), Haryana (131.10),Nagaland (178.43) and Sikkim (193.98)

Note: Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh has been merged to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh respectively for comparison)Source: INDUS, Child Labour Project, 2007, Child Labour Facts and Figures: An analysis of Census 2001, ILO and Government of India.

Census data from 2001, shows that only around 20 percent of child workers are engaged on farms in agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing. There is a sharp decline in this proportion compared to 1991 where around 42 percent of the child labour force was engaged on farms in agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing. Thus there is a of child labour force from farm to non-farm activities. Nearly 48 percent of the child labour force 4

The Himachal Pradesh story has been well documented by Anuradha De, Claire Noronha and Meera Samson in “Primary Education in Himachal Pradesh: Examining a Success Story” in R. Govinda (edited) (2002) India Education Report, op.cited, pp.297-311.


in the age group of 5-14 are involved in manufacturing, both household based and nonhousehold based. Remaining child labour force is involved in service sector operations including construction, trade and domestic service – mostly in the informal sectors of the economy. This partly explains the increase in the child labour force in North and East Indian States where the household industries and service sector is growing. 1.4 Nature and extent of child labour and child work: Findings of the Time-use survey5

The Department of Statistics, Government of India, organized a pilot time use survey in six states of India between July, 1998, and June, 1999. The idea of undertaking such a study was, in part, to analyse the implication of paid and unpaid work among men, women and children in rural and urban areas. This study was conducted in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Meghalaya. The total sample size was 18,628 households distributed among the states in proportion to the total number of estimated households as per the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) 1993-94 survey.

The survey collected comprehensive information on how people, including children above six years, spend their time on different activities. The one-day recall method was used for data collection. Indira Hirway, analyzing the data, shows “that the most important economic activity for children in the age group, 6-14 years is animal husbandry. About 11.47 percent of boys and 10.69 percent of girls in this age group participated in this activity, particularly in animal grazing….These boys and girls spent 21.54 hours and 13.94 hours, respectively on this activity, implying on an average, a daily engagement of three and two hours respectively”6

The next important economic activity for children is the collection of fuelwood, water, fodder, fruits, etc. About 4.51 percent of boys and 13.76 percent of girls in the age group 6-14 were engaged in this activity, which implies that this activity is more important for girls than for boys7. Farming engages 6.23 percent of boys and 6.24 percent of girls. Petty services like informal sector activities engage 5.41 percent of boys and 4.72 percent of girls. Fishing and forestry and other manufacturing activities are also important from a children’s work point of view.

Breaking up the data by age groups, Hirway says that in the 6-9 years age group, about 6.82 percent of boys and 6.37 percent of girls are engaged in animal husbandry, mainly grazing. Petty services employ 4.57 percent of boys and 4.40 percent of girls. Crop farming engages 3.51 percent of boys and 3.74 percent of girls. Further the data reveals that “children aged 6-14, who, participated in economic activities spent 21.46 hours a week (about three hours a day), on an average, on SNA (System of National Accounting)8 work, which comes to 12.77 percent of their total weekly time. Boys spent


This section draws extensively from Neera Burra (2007 ) Born Unfree. Child Labour, Education and the State in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi6

Indira Hirway (2002) “Understanding Children’s Work in India: An Analysis Based on Time Use Data” in Nira Ramachandran and Lionel Massun (eds.) Comingto Grip With Rural Child Work, op.cited p. 84 7

Ibid.SNA is the System of National Accounts which refers to economic activities which are covered under national income accounts. Extended SNA activities are those which are not included in



24.27 hours while girls spent 18.63 hours. The data show that boys engaged in mining, quarrying and digging spend maximum time on this work (34.5 hours), which implies that many of them are engaged in these activities on a full-time basis. This is followed by manufacturing work (32.70 hours), construction work (26.16 hours), animal grazing (21.54 hours) and crop farming (20.14 hours).

In the case of girls engaged in SNA activities, maximum time (37.34 hours a week) is spent by those who are engaged in mining, quarrying and digging. This is followed by girls engaged in manufacturing activities (27.57 hours), construction work (22.30 hours), crop farming (20.79 hours) and animal husbandry (18.02 hours).9 The time-use survey showed that while 67.13 percent of children are engaged in educational activities and about

17 percent in pure economic activities, the balance 15.87 percent were engaged either in extended SNA activities or in non-SNA activities. Extended SNA activities while not considered strictly economic activities fall in the ‘General Production Boundary’ and include activities such as household maintenance, management, care of siblings, sick, aged and disabled and other household activities.10 Care of siblings, the aged, the sick and the disabled take up a fair amount of the time of children. For example, girls in the age group 6-14 and 6-9 years spend 7.96 hours and 7.52 hours on the physical care of children respectively.

The time-use survey shows that boys and girls spend 21.46 hours a week on SNAactivities, which is about 47 percent of the time spent by an adult on SNA activities. Girls (6-14) participate in extended SNA activities much more than participant men of all ages. Thus, while girls spend 13.01 hours on household management, 10.64 hours on community services and 11.17 hours on care activities, the corresponding data on time spent by men are 6.76 hours, 7.99 hours and 6.12 hours respectively.11 As Hirway points out: “when one combines SNA and extended SNA work, one realizes that children’s contribution to this total work in the society is more than marginal, in terms of both number of participants as well as hours put in. The contribution of girls is greater than that of boys.”12

More significantly, she says that “more than 32 percent ‘nowhere’ children, who do not go to school, are largely engaged in economic or in extended economic activities. In the case of girls, their low attendance in school is not only due to their participation in economic activities but also due to the responsibilities borne by them in extended SNA activities.”13

national accounts but are covered under General Production Boundary, and non-SNA activities or personal activities.9

Ibid.pp.86-87Ibid.pp 89-9011Ibid.p.9810




2. CATEGORIES OF CHILD LABOURChild labour is a term that needs to be unpacked: it cannot be used in a sweeping manner but covers a range and variety of circumstances in which children work. a. Child Labour: Those children who are doing paid or unpaid work in factories, workshops, establishments, mines and in the service sector such as domestic labour.

The Ministry of Labour, Government of India has employed the term ‘child labour’ only in the context of children doing ‘hazardous’ work. By implication, children who are not doing ’hazardous’ work are not considered to be child labourers and are said to be doing child work. The consequence of this narrow definition of child labour is that the Labour Ministry’s definition only includes a very small percentage of children who are in the work-force and leaves out millions of children who require policy and programmatic support from the Government.

b. Street Children: Children living on and off the streets, such as shoeshine boys, ragpickers, newspaper-vendors, beggars, etc. The problem of street children is somewhat different from that of child labour in factories and workshops. For one thing, most children have some sort of home to go back to in the evenings or nights, while street children are completely alone and are at the mercy of their employers. They live on the pavements, in the bus stations and railway stations. They are at the mercy of urban predators as also the police.

They have no permanent base and are often on the move. So their problem is more acute than that of children working in a factory and living at home. c. Bonded Children: Children who have either been pledged by their parents for paltry sums of money or those working to pay off the inherited debts of their fathers. Bonded child labour is an acute problem in some states. Bonded children are in many ways the most difficult to assist because they are inaccessible. If the carpet owner has bought them, they cannot escape. If the middle-class housewife has paid for them, they cannot run away. If the landlord in the village owns them, they will spend their life in servitude till they get married and can, in turn, sell their children.

d. Working Children: Children who are working as part of family labour in agriculture and in home-based work. If children are working 12-14 hours a day along with their parents at the cost of their education, their situation is similar to that of children working for other employers. In fact children, particularly girls, are expected to take on work burdens by parents in complete disproportion to their strengths and abilities. This is the largest category of children who are out-of-school and are working full time. And it is here that we find the largest percentage of girls working at the cost of education. e. Children used for sexual exploitation: Many thousands of young girls and boys serve the sexual appetites of men from all social and economic backgrounds.

Direct links between the commercial sexual exploitation of children and other forms of exploitative child labour are numerous. Factories, workshops, street corners, railway stations, bus stops and homes where children work are common sites of sexual exploitation. Children are especially powerless to resist abuse by employers, either as perpetrators or intermediaries. Village loan sharks often act as procurers for city brothels, lending money to the family which must be paid back through the daughter’s work. Almost all such children are betrayed by those they trust and end up with their trust abused. The physical (health, danger of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases) and psycho-social damage


inflicted by commercial sexual exploitation makes it one of the most hazardous forms of child labour.f. Migrant children: India faces a huge challenge with “distress seasonal migration”. Millions of families are being forced to leave their homes and villages for several months every year in search of livelihoods. These migrations mean that families are forced to drop out of schools, something that closes up the only available opportunity to break the vicious cycle generation after generation. At worksites migrant children are inevitably put to work. All evidence indicates that migrations are large and growing. The number of children below 14 years of age thus affected, may already be in the order of 9 million.14 Migrant populations overwhelmingly belong to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Castes.

They comprise the landless and land poor who possess the least amount of assets, skills or education. Studies reveal that the majority of migrant labour is to be found is states like Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Almost all major states appear to be affected by migration, although to varying degrees. Many industrial and agro-industrial sectors like brick-making, salt manufacture, sugar cane harvesting, stone quarrying, construction, fisheries, plantations, rice mills and so on run largely on migrant labour.

g. Children engaged in household activities: Apart from children who are employed for wages (either bonded or otherwise) as domestic help, there are a large number of children (especially girls) who are working in their own houses, engaged in what is not normally seen as “economic activity”. These children are engaged in taking care of younger siblings, cooking, cleaning and other such household activities. As seen in the literature on women’s work, such activities need to be recognised as ‘work’. Further, if such children are not sent to school, they will eventually join the labour force as one of the above categories of child labour.

3. EXISTING PROGRAMMES FOR REHABILITATION OF CHILD LABOUR3.1 Legal FrameworkAs per Article 24 of the Constitution, no child below the age of 14 years is to be employed in any factory, mine or any hazardous employment. Further, Article 39 requires the States to direct its policy towards ensuring that the tender age of children is not abused and that they are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Recently, with the insertion of Article 21A, the State has been entrusted with the task of providing free and compulsory education to all the children in the age group of 6-14 years.

Consistent with the Constitutional provisions, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986, which seeks to prohibit employment of children below 14 years in hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in other employments. In the last 5 years, the number of hazardous processes listed in the 14

America India Foundation (2006) Locked Homes, Empty Schools. The Impact ofDistress Seasonal Migration on the Rural Poor, Zubaan, New Delhi


schedule of the Act has increased from 18 to 57 and occupations from 7 to 13. Recently, Government has also decided to include children working as domestic servants and those working in dhabas/roadside eateries/motels etc. in the category of hazardous occupations. 15

3.2 National Child Labour ProgrammeConsidering the complexity and the magnitude of the issue the National Policy on Child Labour announced in 1987 emphasised the need for strict enforcement measures in areas of high child labour concentration.

In order to translate the above policy into action, the Government of India initiated the National Child Labour Project Scheme in 1988 to rehabilitate the working children starting with 12 child labour endemic districts of the country. Under the Scheme, working children are identified through child labour survey, withdrawn from work and put into the special schools, so as to provide them with enabling environment to join mainstream education system. In these Special Schools, besides formal education, they are provided stipend @ Rs.100/- per month, nutrition, vocational training and regular health check ups. In addition, efforts are also made to target the families of these children so as to cover them under various developmental and income/employment generation programmes of the Government.

The Scheme also envisages awareness generation campaigns against the evils of child labour and enforcement of child labour laws. The NCLP Scheme is implemented through a district level Project Society, headed by the District Collector. This Project Society includes prominent NGOs and Trade Unions of the district, in addition to the State Government officials from Education, Health, Rural Development, Labour, Social Welfare and Women & Child Development Departments, etc. The involvement of different departments in the Project Society is to ensure better convergence with these Departments for implementation of the Scheme. As far as possible, running of special schools for child labour is entrusted to NGOs. It may, however, be taken up by the Project Society itself, if competent and experienced NGOs are not available in the district for this purpose.

The funds under the Scheme are sanctioned by the Ministry directly to the District Collector, who in turn, disburses them amongst the NGOs for running these Special Schools for working children. The funds are also provided under the Scheme for conducting regular child labour surveys, awareness generation programmes and training of instructors/teachers, etc. The coverage of the NCLP programme, which started with 12 districts, has been thereafter progressively increased to cover much larger number of districts in the country. In fact, major thrust to the programme came with the landmark judgement of the Hon’ble 15

Labour Law Apprentice Act, 1961: A person is qualified to be engaged as an apprentice only if he is not less than 14 years of age, and satisfies such standards of education and physical fitness as may be prescribed. Factories Act, 1948: A child below 14 years of age is not allowed to work in any factory. An adolescent between 15 and 18 years can be employed in a factory only if he obtains a certificate of fitness from an authorized medical doctor. A child between 14 and 18 years of age cannot be employed for more than four and a half hours. Mines Amendment Act: No person below 18 years of age shall be allowed to work in any mine or part thereof.


Supreme Court in December 1996 in the case of M.C. Mehta Vs. State of Tamilnadu. The Hon’ble Supreme Court gave certain directions regarding the manner in which the children working in the hazardous occupations were to be withdrawn from work and rehabilitated, as also the manner in which the working conditions of the children employed in non-hazardous occupations were to be regulated and improved upon.

The Hon’ble Court specifically ordered withdrawal of children working in hazardous industries and ensuring their education in appropriate institutions. It also prescribed employment of at least one adult member of the family of the child so withdrawn from work, a contribution of Rs.20,000/- per child was ordered to be paid by the offending employer into a corpus of fund set up for the welfare of child labour & their families.

Failing which, the State Government to contribute to this Welfare Fund Rs.5,000/- per child. The interest earnings of this corpus were to be used for providing financial assistance to the families of these children. The Hon’ble Court also ordered regulation of working hours for the children engaged in non-hazardous occupations, so that their working hours did not exceed 5-6 hours per day and that at least two hours of education was ensured. It further directed that the entire expenditure on education of these children be borne by their employers.

In pursuance with the directions of the Hon’ble Court, fresh chi