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Child Labour in India

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Last updated date: 24th Jul 2024
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What is Child Labour?

Participation in work by children or adolescents that does not harm their health or development or interfere with their education is generally regarded as a positive thing. Helping their parents around the house, helping in a family business, or earning pocket money outside of school hours and during school holidays are examples of such activities. These activities help in the development of children and their families by providing them with skills and experience, as well as preparing them to be useful members of society as adults.

Meaning of Child Labour

Work that dispossesses children of their childhood, their dignity and their potential, as well as work that is harmful to their physical and mental development, is sometimes called "child labour". It refers to work that is dangerous and harmful to children on a social, physical, mental, or moral level. Also interferes with their education by denying them the chance to manage school, forcing them to leave school early, or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

The age of the child, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed, and the aims pursued by various nations all influence whether or not certain types of "work" may be classified as "child labour." The answer varies from one nation to the next, as well as between industries within countries.

Provisions Related to Child Labour

Some of the provisions that deals with Children and Child labour directly or indirectly are given below:

  • Article 24 of Indian Constitution: Prohibition of employment of children in factories, etc. No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.

  • Article 21A: The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

  • Article 39 (e): that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength

  • Article 39 (f): that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment

  • Laws: Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016.

  • Rules: Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017

Child Labour in India

In 2011, India's national census showed that there were 10.1 million child labourers aged 5–14, out of a total of 259.64 million children in that age range. The problem of child labour is not limited to India; about 217 million youngsters work globally, many of whom work full-time. A "Child" is defined as anybody under the age of 14 under the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, as modified in 2016 ("CLPR Act"), and the CLPR Act bans the hiring of a Child in any job, including as a domestic helper. Employing a child for any purpose is a punishable crime.

According to the Factories Act, 1948, children between the ages of 14 and 18 are classified as "adolescents," and they are allowed to work except in the listed hazardous types of occupations, which include mining, inflammable substance and explosives-related work, and any other hazardous process. In India, an estimated 1% of all child labourers, or around 1,20,000 youngsters, were working in dangerous conditions in 2001. In particular, Article 24 of the Indian Constitution forbids child labour in hazardous sectors (but not in non-hazardous industries).

According to UNICEF, India has the greatest number of child labourers in the world, with a population of over one billion, while Sub-Saharan African nations have the highest percentage of children employed as child labourers. Agriculture, according to the International Labour Organization, is the world's largest employer of child labour, accounting for 60% of all child labour, while the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization believes that agriculture and associated industries account for 70% of all child labour. Child labour is found in nearly every informal sector of the Indian economy outside of agriculture.

Child Labour - Causes and Effects

Cause of Child Labour

  • According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), poverty is the primary cause of child labour. For impoverished families, a child's earnings are generally important for his or her personal life, as well as the survival of the home. Working children's earnings, even if tiny, can account for 25 to 40% of a family's income. Other researchers, like Edmonds and Pavcnik on worldwide child labour and Harsch on African child labour, have found similar conclusions. 

  • According to the ILO, another important factor leading children to hazardous labour is a lack of viable alternatives, such as cheap schools and excellent education. Because they have nothing better to do, children work. Many communities, particularly rural ones where 60–70% of children are employed, lack appropriate educational facilities. Even when schools are occasionally accessible, they are either too far away, difficult to reach, or costly, or the quality of education is so bad that parents question if sending their children to school is worth it.

Negative Effects of Child Labour

The difficulty of the job and the harsh working conditions cause dozens of new problems, including accelerated ageing, starvation, despair, and drug addiction, to name a few. These youngsters, who come from low-income households, minority groups, or have been kidnapped from their families, have no protection. Their bosses go to great lengths to make them entirely invisible so that they can maintain complete control over them. These youngsters work under deplorable conditions, eroding all human nature's principles and fundamental rights.

Additionally, a working child will not be able to receive regular education and will be doomed to become an illiterate adult with no chance of progress in his or her professional or social life. Child labour can jeopardise a child's dignity and morality in some situations, particularly when sexual exploitation is involved, such as prostitution and child pornography. Furthermore, a kid who works is more likely to suffer from malnutrition. These children are often exposed to physical, mental, and sexual assault.

What Needs to be Done in India to Stop Child Labour?

Much more has to be done in India's political environment to end exploitative child labour: child labour laws must be strengthened and enforced more rigorously. Furthermore, acute poverty, which is a core cause of child labour, must be addressed. Stopping child labour in India requires addressing poverty and inequality. It is equally critical to have access to education to escape the cycle of poverty and child labour.

Children who finish higher levels of school are more likely to find respectable jobs as adults and may use their earnings to support themselves and their families without having to rely on child labour. Even though schooling is obligatory and free for children up to the age of 14, severe poverty compels families to prioritise feeding their children above sending them to school. As a result, many children miss school or do not go at all due to their need to work.

The Goal is to Stop Child Labour by 2030

The International Labour Organisation is a United Nations specialised organisation. Its mission is to promote social justice and decent work across the world by establishing worldwide labour standards. We should strive together to eradicate child labour by 2025, according to Goal 8.7 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We help to achieve this aim by providing children with free education and three meals each day. This eliminates the need for additional youngsters to work.

We feel that one of the most serious issues in third-world nations is a lack of knowledge. Child labour denies children’s childhood and their access to education. The negative impact of child labour is their physical and mental health. Child labour is a complicated issue. Poverty, a lack of information, a lack of education, (civil) conflicts, and nations that do not follow national and international rules are the primary reasons for child labour. 

Did You Know?

What is World Day Against Child Labour?

Every year on June 12th, the globe celebrates World Day Against Child Labour. The day aims to raise awareness about the criminal activity of child labour, which continues. The goal of this day is to raise awareness about the disease so that it can be eliminated across the world. Child labour still occurs, and youngsters, particularly from low-income families, are compelled to work in dangerous environments despite employers' physical, mental, and social exploitation. These children are denied the chance to experience childhood, and many are also denied access to education. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations body, first commemorated this particular day in 2002. Child labour has grown to 160 million people globally, according to a recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

World Day Against Child Labour 2021 Theme

'Act Now: Stop Child Labour' is the subject of this year's World Day Against Child Labour. As a result of the coronavirus epidemic and global crises, there has been a sharp increase in child labour throughout the world as individuals struggle to find work.

According to reports, the development or improvement that was highlighted before to COVID-19 for World Day Against Child Labour has now slowed. As a result, people in positions of authority bear the duty of putting a stop to injustice and providing a good future for these children.


Therefore, Child labour refers to work that is harmful to children on a mental, physical, social, or moral level. Work that deprives children of their youth, their potential and their dignity is also included. Out of a total of 259.64 million children, India had 10.1 million child labourers aged 5–14 in 2011. About 217 million youngsters work globally, many of whom work full-time. Child labour is found in nearly every informal sector of the Indian economy outside of agriculture.

FAQs on Child Labour in India

1. What is wrong with child labour?

Child labour can cause severe physical and mental harm, as well as death. Slavery, as well as sexual and economic exploitation, are possibilities. It denies children almost universal access to education and health care, limiting their fundamental rights and jeopardising their futures.

2. What are the important consequences of child labour in Nigeria?

Child labour is a curse on many Nigerian children's health, development, and education. In Nigeria, the educational and health consequences of child labour cannot be overstated, children aged 5 to 17 are economically and physically enticed or even forced to perform tasks that are likely to harm and interfere with their education and health.

3. What was the impact of child labour during the industrial revolution?

Child labour, or the use of children as servants and apprentices, has been a part of human history for most of it, but it peaked during the Industrial Revolution. Working conditions were appalling, with overcrowded and filthy factories, a lack of safety codes or legislation, and long hours the norm. Children could be paid less, were less likely to form unions, and their small stature allowed them to complete tasks in factories or mines that adults would locate challenging.