Child labour has remained a great concern for developing countries
Poverty, hunger, and lack of resources push millions of children to the world of labour at a very tender age
Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them.
Today, 152 million children are still engaged in labour. Child labour occurs in almost all sectors, yet 7 out of every 10 of these children are working in agriculture. Childhood is considered to be the most wonderful phase of life. But, not all children are fortunate enough to experience this stage.
Poverty, hunger, and lack of resources push millions of children to the world of labour at a very tender age. Unemployment of parents also leads to increase in child labor as unemployment of the family head leads to desperation and everyone in the family tries to contribute his bit in arranging for the meals and other requirements of the family.
Child labor is a serious social problem, not only in India but also in other developing countries. The law in Indian soil says that any child below age of 14 cannot be employed either in a factory or office or restaurant. Childhood is the great and happiest period of the lives of everyone during which one learns about the basic strategy of the life from parents, loved ones and nature. Child labour interferes with the proper growth and development of the children in all aspects like mental, physical, social and intellectual.
Child labours are paid very low wages that range from one third to a half of that of adults, even when their output is greater. Taking into consideration the law concerning child labour, the child workers are virtually unprotected by the Indian constitution. While the government proposes to abolish the problem of child labour according to the Act of 1986 but it seems impossible as unfair means are being practiced to evade legislation of any kind by the employers. The child labourer has often been understood as cheap labour, which is a vital economic asset to developing industry. But this never justifies the inhuman conditions, which these innocent ones face.
It is seen that child labourers are totally sidelined by some organizations. No doubt, due to immense poverty and adult unemployment, many children do need work; hence I would like to suggest that to have a complete ban on any kind of work for children below 14 is impractical but there has to be a cut off age. Children below ten should not be allowed to work at any cost. Time has now come when we need to organize ‘Workshops-cum-training” centers for poor children so that they can earn while learning some skills.
Child labour has moved from the more formal setting of factories to informal settings such as domestic helpers and industries like embroidery, glass, beedi-rolling, carpet-making, lock-making and other such sectors. This indicates that unless stronger and more effective steps are taken, child labour will continue to be a part of the global and national story.
In India, 10.1 million in the age group of 5 to 11 years and 22.87 million in the age group of 15 to 18 years are out there working day in and day out to earn for a square meal and supporting their family’s income. Undeniably, food and education are two main aspects of proper growth and development of children. But, ironically, it is the need of food that compels parents to engage their children in laborious roles.
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. Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17 years old. Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls. The parents of children are not aware of the possible harmful effects of child labor on their children.
Child labour is a concern that multiple governments all over the world are combating. For a better world, it is a call to everyone to always report cases or incidences of child labor so that the rights of these children are defended by all possible means.
We must understand that only when we complement the efforts of governments and NGOs, the laws, policies, and schemes will start showing favourable results. Instead of child labor, entire focus should be on child education. If the boy or girl takes up a small job as a domestic help or restaurant boy against a nominal salary, he or she does not get enough time for primary and secondary education. Illiterate and unskilled population cannot make a great nation.
Observing National Anti-Child Labour Day once a year is not enough to combat against an age-old social system. Something more needs to be done, and that too earnestly.
(The writer is based in Ahmadabad)