Child Labour in India
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The issue of child labour is a developmental issue that is worth studying. The idea that children as young as eight years old are exposed and forced to toil is a concern of many people. Child labour in India has become a prominent concern not only for the government but also for civil societies working in India. Additionally, the current policy to eradicate child labour in India appears to be inadequate.
Lacks of social security coupled with dire poverty have been the main cause of child labour in India. The increasing gap between the poor and the rich, privatization of basic services and the neo-liberal economic policies has also contributed to child labour. Children between the ages of 7-14 are the most affected population. The international labour organization defines child labour as any work that deprives a child of his or her childhood dignity or potential. Child labour is harmful to a child’s mental and physical development. The history of child labour can be traced back to the time of independence in India.
The Indian economy has witnessed a significant GDP growth of approximately 8-9 % per annum recently. More than 60 % of the Indian population depends on agriculture. People depending on agriculture as the main economic activity struggle to achieve at least a 2 % annual growth. The average annual growth rate for grains productions in India, in the last 13 years, makes approximately 1.5 %. The development speed of non-food grains is 1.46 % per annum. This implies that the growth rate is lesser than the growth rate of the population. Indian agrarian sector is facing a grand crisis after most of the farmers committed suicide. In the 1990s, suicides among farmers became a considerable concern in India. Many farmers committed suicides especially in the state of Maharashtra (The Government of Romania and the International Labour Organization 38).
According to campaign groups and civil societies working in India, these suicides were a result of food speculators manipulating on the prices of cereals in the market. The unmanageable prices of farm inputs such as fertilizers and cotton seeds also made many farmers commit suicide. In an attempt to buy the expensive seeds, some farmers had acquired some unmanageable debts from banks. As a result of fluctuations in food prices, life became tough for most farmers, and majority opted to end their lives. More than 17, 500 farmers had committed suicide between the years 2002 and 2006.
This crisis in the agrarian sector has thus affected most of the poor people living in rural areas. Some studies in areas such as Andhra Pradesh have shown that families are withdrawing their children from school. They are putting them in the farms to replace dead relatives. Most economists in India have pointed out that the post-independence period was marked with a failure in the Indian economic development (The Government of Romania and the International Labour Organization 43).
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Historically, children in India used to accompany and help their parents in the farms. However, in the 1780s and 1840s during the industrial revolution, it was a common thing to find children working in factories. Today, child labour in India can be said to be arising from various factors. Poverty is one of the identifiable causes of child labour in India. Although the country has achieved commendable progress in terms of industrialization, the remunerations of this development have not been passed on to the inferior levels of the social order over the years.
Disparities in income in India have progressively increased especially after the Indian economy opened up in the late 1980s. This forced many poor rural families to withdraw their children from schools so as to help in generating extra income for the family. Additionally, poor families could not afford to take their children to schools. As a result, such children remained at home and consequently in the farms and factories (Assefa and William 94).
According to the Indian population census of 2001, children between the ages of 0-14 constituted about 360 million. This was 35.3 % of the total population. Children between the ages of 5-14 constituted about 251 million, and this accounted for 24.6 % of the overall population. This has made India be among states with the biggest number of children labourers in the world. However, the 2011 population census showed that there has been a small decline in child labour. In 1991, there were 11.28 million children labourers whereas 12.59 million in the year 2001.
More importantly, the state of Andhra Pradesh has witnessed a significant number in the farmer’s suicide while it had the highest number of children labourers, as well. This state had approximately 400, 000 children labourers. Most importantly, girls between the ages of 7-14 years worked for 14-16 hours per day. 90 % of Children labourers in Andhra Pradesh work in cottonseed production and farming. 40 % work in precious stone cutting. In the Bellary District of Karnataka, children labourers work in the mining industries. In urban areas, children labour is concentrated in the Zari and embroidery industry (Assefa and William 46).
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In identifying the effects of child labour on children, it should be distinguished from child work. Child work can be beneficial for children because it can help to enhance their social, moral, mental, physical, and spiritual development. Child work does not interfere with children’s rest, schooling, or recreation. Children helping their parents with household work after school contribute to the positive development of a child. Child work is only a socialization process, and it acts as a means of transmitting skills from the elderly or parents to children. However, child labour hampers the emotional, physical, moral, and intellectual growth of a child.
Youngsters who are forced into child labour at a very tender age can have adverse effects on their health. Children are in the growing process. Forcing children to assume unusual places at work can disable or distort their bodies. Children are not resistant to diseases, and thus they are likely to suffer more readily from radiation and chemical hazards. Therefore, the effects of child labour on children can be classified into three categories.
There are forms of child labour that are hazardous and affect children's labourers immediately. Physical hazards affect the overall health of a child. Physical hazards affect a child’s vision, hearing, and coordination. Research has proved that hard and physical labour over a long time stunts a child’s physical stature. It hampers growth approximately 30 % off of their biological potential. Working at construction sites, carrying heavy loads, and mining are some of the works that put children at risk physically. Brassware and glass industries in India are a good example of physical work in child labour. Children are exposed to hot temperatures in the vicinity of the wheel kiln (Assefa and William 28).
Children’s cognitive development is impaired when they are withdrawn form schooling. Education is an essential component in the development of emotional, cognitive, and social attributes among a child. Cognitive development that is compromised by child labour among children is the acquisition of knowledge necessary for a normal life, literacy, and numeracy knowledge. Child labour ends up taking too much of a child’s time, and this makes it impossible for them to join schools. Those, who manage to attend school after working for long hours, are exhausted, and they are not in a position to be attentive and follow the lessons (Assefa and William 76).
Emotional, Moral and Social Effects of Child Labour
Certain works jeopardize a child’s social and psychological growth more than physical development. For example, small domestic chores can involve light work. However, long hours of work and the sexual and psychological abuse, to which children are exposed as domestic workers, serve to deter their development. Studies have shown that domestic workers in India work approximately twenty hours a day, with only small intervals for rest. When children labourers are exposed to such long hours of work, they are affected emotionally and psychologically.
According to a report by UNICEF, 90 % of employers of domestic workers preferred children of 12-15 years of age. The purpose of this is that children workers are easy to dominate over and they oblige to work for long hours. Domestic workers employers also prefer children workers because they can pay them less money. The moral effects that children labourers face arise from illegal activities. Children are forced to take part in drug trafficking, sex trade, and the production of pornographic material (Assefa and William 112).
Attempts by the Indian Government to Stop Child Labour
Since India got its independence, the government has made exceptional efforts to eradicate child labour. It has tirelessly formulated policies to stop child labour. The government has passed laws that do not allow children under the age of 14 to toil. In the 1996 Constitution of India, child labour for children under the age of 14 was endorsed. The Bonded Labour System Act of 1976 put an end to forced labuor. It also freed all bonded labourers who included children. In the year 1994, the Elimination of Child Labour program was launched. It aimed at ending child labour by the year 2000. In this program, children were promised 100 rupee payments if they returned to school. They were also promised a meal if they attended school instead of work. Despite these elaborate efforts by the Indian government to eradicate child labour, the problem still remains unresolved (The Government of Romania and the International Labour Organization 51)
Why Attempts by the Government to End Child Labour Have Failed
Despite major efforts to end child labour in India, this sub-continent is still the largest home to child labourers in the world. India’s policies and laws have not been sustainable and effective in ending child labour. Most of the policies do not end the cause behind child labour. Poverty is still the greatest standoff in ending child labour. The entry of multinational companies in India without proper mechanisms to hold such companies accountable has led to continued use of child labour. Lack of a good quality of universal education in India has also contributed to children dropping out of school while very young. An increasing phenomenon is the use of children as domestic workers in urban areas. Conditions, in which these children work, are not fully regulated by the government. Child labour in India is highest among some tribes, castes Muslims, and OBC children (Assefa and William 39).
Child labour in India has increased due to the inefficiency of the administrative systems and law. It has also increased because it benefits employers who have vast influence in the government and who can reduce the wage levels at will. Some of the government projects have resulted in the forced displacement of people. Other factors such as farmer’s suicide, high cost of health care, and the establishment of special economic zones have resulted in dropouts of children from school. These children end up becoming labourers to help raise some money for their families. Another reason that has curtailed government initiatives to ending child labour is that bonded labour is a hidden phenomenon (Tucker 87).
The Solution to Child Labour in India and Solutions That Have Worked In Other Places
To stop and completely eradicate child labour in India, multi-disciplinary action must be adopted. The government needs to work closely with researchers, civil societies, and those who propel child labour. The government needs to formulate sustainable and effective laws and policies. Additionally, the Indian government can learn from successive countries in curbing child labour, such as Sri-Lanka. In my own opinion, poverty eradication strategies must be implemented to end child labour. Additionally, firm legal actions must be put in so as to bring child labourers, employers, into justice. Child labour in industrialized countries such as America is low because most families’ economic status is high.
Therefore, to end child labour, families in India must be economically empowered. The government must ensure that distribution, access to and control of natural resources are evenly or equally distributed. Research has shown, is evident that when a family is poor, there is no means or mechanism of feeding its members. This makes such families withdraw their children from schools so that they work to earn a living. Offering basic education and sensitization to both the parents and employers is another effective way of ending child labour in India. Employers must recognize and make aware that employing children is both unethical and is against the fundamental rights of children.
The quality of education in a country can be a grand influence on the supply of child labour. The current 385 schools completion rate in India must be increased. This can be achieved by implementing compulsory school education program. This will ensure the literacy level is increased and, at the same time, child labour is reduced. Compulsory education will ensure and made it compulsory for children to be in school. Any parent or employer found going against this by retaining a child at home or employing a child will face the full course of the law (Assefa and William 64).
A good example of a country that has successfully implemented compulsory education to end child labour is Sri-Lanka. The Sri-Lanka government decided to enforce compulsory education in the 1920s and 1930s. With a compulsory education program, school attendance increased from 58 %, in 1946, to 74% in 1963. Literacy levels also increased from 58 % to 86 % by the year 1984. The corresponding result of this was that child labour for children in the age bracket of 10-14 decreased substantially. Today child labour is 5.3 % among males and only 4.6 among the females.
Another example that shows compulsory education is an effective method of reducing child labour is in the Indian State of Kerala. This state distinguishes itself from the rest of India in that it spends more money on school education than college or university education. Kerala puts more emphasis on primary education, and this has led to a dropout rate of approximately 0 % and a literacy level of 94 % among males and 86 % among the females. The Indian government should strive to implement its constitution and provide compulsory education to children until they reach the age of 14 years.
However, there are those who will claim that child labour cannot be eradicated with a compulsory education or poverty eradication program by the Indian government. Such people may say that poverty cannot cause or foster child labour. People disagreeing with compulsory education and poverty eradication as strategies of ending child labour can also say it is not workable. They may claim that offering compulsory education is an economic endeavor that the Indian government cannot afford. They may also claim that eradicating poverty is impossible and does not require the intervention of the government because it is a personal issue (The Government of Romania and the International Labour Organization 95).
Nevertheless, poverty eradication and compulsory education is the only remedy for child labour. Eradicating poverty in India will bring more benefits that will ensure that no child drop out of school will occur in favor of getting them employed. Implementing a compulsory education will bring more benefits not only to the Indian economy but also to individual homesteads. Compulsory education will ensure that children are retained in schools for a longer period. This will improve their literacy level, thus make them marketable in the job market (Tucker 49).
The importance of education cannot be underestimated in the efforts of eradicating child labour. A population with a high literacy level will not subject their children to forced and exploitative labour. Alternatively, they will seek avenues which can make their children more successful in their career. On an individual level, compulsory education even in terms of secondary schools will increase a person’s earning power. It will also improve the quality of life for an individual. Enlightened people become aware of their rights as employees. Although someone may argue that lack of education does not necessarily lead to child labour, there exists a link between child labour and lack of education. Child labour and lack of education are considered symptoms of endemic poverty. This leads to a vicious circle where one of these contributes to another. Therefore, it is important for the Indian government to acknowledge this causal link and act respectively (Assefa and William 76).
The benefits of poverty eradication and compulsory education can be far-reaching. Many countries facing the problem of child labour have realized that the achievement of basic education and the elimination of child labour are interrelated. If the Indian government ensures that the accessibility of natural assets is equitable, there will be no exploitation of employees by employers. Poverty eradication initiatives can include an increase in the minimum wages for adult employees in the informal style. When families’ economic status is increased, they will not withdraw their children from schools. Families will invest in the schooling of their offspring.
As a result of this development, child labour may become a thing of the past. Therefore, having a comprehensive strategy that will increase minimum wages and enhance equitable distribution of resources can be a big step towards the eradication of child labour in India. Additionally, compulsory education will have more benefits not only to poor rural families but also to the entire Indian economy. This is because with an increased literacy level in a population, the development pace increases (Assefa and William 91).
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India's position in terms of child labour remains high, and it is not appreciable. It is still home to the biggest total number of child labour. Child labour prevalence in India has been shown by child work participation rates which are greater in India than any other developing country. Regardless of child labour that children are forced to endeavor, children in India continue to face miserable and difficult lives. Eliminating the high rate of poverty and the implementation of free and compulsory education, and strict implementation of laws can aid in solving the problem of child labour. It is the high time that employers in India realize that child labour is unethical and damages the future of the country.
Similarly, parents need to be educated on the fundamental rights of children. This will ensure that parents stop sending their children to work. To end child Labour in India, all stakeholders need to come together and formulate ways that can help to terminate the problem of bonded child labour in India. Non-Governmental Organizations, such as MVF working in Andhra Pradesh, should be supported by the government for its commendable job working towards the welfare of the children (Tucker 65).
The Government of Romania and the International Labour Organization: A Decade of Cooperation on the Elimination of Child Labour 2000 2009. Geneva: ILO, 2009. Print.
This book reports on the reports of the national survey on child labour as outlined in the Indian Government Institute and Census reports. It provided important insights on statistics that describe the magnitude and characteristics of child labour in India. This book states that in most rural areas in India, two out of every five children work to compliment adult labourer and offset male labour due to farmer’s suicide and male migration.
Tucker, Lee. "Child Slaves in Modern India: The Bonded Labour Problem." Human Rights Quarterly: A Comparative and International Journal of the Social Sciences, Philosophy, and Law. 19.3 (1997): 572-629. Print.
This article provides more information on the situation of the current state of child labour in India. In relation to child labour, this article indicates that child labour in India is a result of the interaction of various factors that lead to a vicious circle. Child labour, according to this document, is caused by cultural norms, as well as high poverty levels among many rural people in India. The document indicates that child labour can be eliminated effectively through compulsory education and poverty eradication initiatives by the Indian Government. This document is helpful because it gives versatile information on some of the attempts made by the Indian government to end child labour.
"Protecting Children in the World of Work." Labour Education. (1997): 1-59. Print.
This document explores the child labour situation within the agricultural and domestic industries. According to this document, compulsory education in some states in India has helped in the eradication of child labour. This document briefly notes that poverty and education are two related symptoms of endemic poverty. It states that lack of education contributes to child labour especially in rural areas where agriculture is the main sector of economic activity.
Assefa, Bekele, and William E. Myers. First Things First in Child Labour: Eliminating Work Detrimental to Children. Geneva: United Nations Children's Fund, 1995. Print.
This book indicates that children between the ages of 14-16 are more likely to withdraw from school so as to engage in work. The likelihood is even more among children from large families. This document also states that an increase in wages for parents might decrease child labour possibilities and contribute positively towards children’s school attendance. Children working in rural areas are more dedicated to family-based agriculture and household chores.
Child Labour in India: Part 1. New Delhi: Library of Congress Office, 2011. Print.
This document highlights the types of child labour in India and the policies that the government is putting in place to curb or stop Child Labour. It was of great help in my research because it gave me an overview of the types of child labour in India.
Weiner, Myron. The Child and the State in India: Child Labour and Education Policy in Comparative Perspective. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2011. Print.
This document gives a detailed explanation of the link or the relationship between poor education and child labour. The author notes that the lack of effective education in a country will lead to children dropping out of school. The author says that school can be a source of child labour if it does meet the needs of the people. The book was helpful in my research because it highlighted poor education in some states of India as a cause of child labour.
Schmitz, C. L., E. K. J. Traver and D. Larson. Child labour: A Global View. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.
This book gives an overview of child labour in the world today with India showing more cases of child labour. The author has explored child labour in 15 countries. The author says that there is an unprecedented number of children working around the world. In the 15 countries examined, gender inequality, lack of education, poverty, and increased demand of the global market place are the causes of child labour. The author gives a history of child labour in each chapter. This book contributed immensely to my research by providing crucial information on the causes and history of child labour in India.
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The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labour in India. New York: Human Rights Watch, 2011. Print.
The author of this book says that at least a total of 15 million children work as bonded labourers in India, today. They work in carpet looms, silver smithies, and in the farms. The authors point out that these children endure miserable lives. The book also gives the legal context, the role of the Indian government, and ways of combating bonded child labour. This book useful because it explains the nature, extent, and ways of solving the problem of bonded child labour in India.
Child Labour in India. Delhi: Manager of Publications, 2007. Print.
This document stipulates that India is a country with the largest number of child labourers. Parents withdraw their children from school so that they can help in income generation. Some children also drop out of school to look for work so that they can stop being dependent on their poor parents. This book is useful since it provides the details of the causes and effects of child labour abuse in India.
The Education of Factory Children in India. Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing, India, 2001. Print.
The author of this book talks about the need to educate children who are working in factories in India. He notes that more than 200, 000 children work in cottonseed factories and silver factories. Children labourers in the factories are exposed to dangerous conditions that negatively affect their lives. The book is helpful because it reveals the effects that child labour can have on children.
India: Small Change: Bonded Child Labour in India's Silk Industry. New York: Human Rights
The silk industry, according to this book, is a place that has employed children labourers. Employers prefer child labour because the children easily exploited and paid less money as compared to adult labourers who demand high wages. The author says that children endure harsh conditions while working in the silk industries. The book is helpful for understanding child abuse issues.