The problem of child labour exploitation is a major challenge to the progress of developing countries. Children work at the cost of their right to education which leaves them permanently trapped in the poverty cycle, sadly without the education and literacy required for better-paying jobs. This is particularly serious in India as it tops the list with the highest number of child labourers in the world. The 2001 national census of India estimated the total number of child labour, aged 5–14, to be at 17 million.
Out of the 12.6 million, 0.12 million engages in hazardous job. However according to informal labour force statistics, the problem seems to be more severe than reflected. Child labour is estimated to be as large as 60 million in India, as many children are "hidden workers" working in homes or in the underground economy. In the long run, this phenomenon will evolve to be both a social and an economic problem as economic disparities widen between the poor and educationally backward states and that of the faster-growing states. India has the highest number of labourers in the world under 14 years of age.
Although the Constitution of India guarantees free and compulsory education to children between the age of 6 to 14 and prohibits employment of children younger than 14 in 18 hazardous occupations and 65 hazardous processes, child labour is prevalent in almost all informal sectors of the Indian economy. Companies including Gap, Primark, Monsanto and others have been criticised for using child labour in either their operations in India or by their suppliers in India.
Many Indian families send their children to work, with some living away from home. Reasons are often associated with poverty, keeping up with the large-size family subsistence and inadequate public education infrastructure. Families generally are also unable to afford their children’s education.
“Families will have to go without their children's income for several years, a choice many poor parents will be unable to make without help.” -BBC news
Attending school means forgoing a source of income for the family. This is a common problem, especially in the low caste and minorities of India.
The demand for child labour further aggravates the situation. Many manufacturing firms and sweatshops are strategically located at poverty-stricken areas to attract children to work as labourers. One example is the textile factory in Delhi where clothes for the International brand “GAP” were manufactured. In 2010 Master ABHILASH rescued many children in Andhra Pradesh. With profit maximizing objectives, firms are incentivised to employ children rather than adults due to their cheaper wages, higher efficiency and most importantly, absence of union problems.
Bonded child labour in India
The labours would probably be bonded labour. It refers to children who are “sold” by their parents for a petty sum, a loan or to pay off debts. A form of long run employer-slave relationship is formed when these children are tied to this debt bondage to work for their employers for a time period that could be stretched to a lifetime, and usually it is for a minimal or no wages. There has been no universally accepted number of bonded child labourers in India, but one estimate in 2000 shows that there were 15 million child labourers who were bonded. Bonded child labour is practiced widely across many parts of rural India and across multiple industries.
Though bondage is illegal in India and initiatives have been taken to stop bonded child labours, little has been achieved. Both Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, have done little to help the bonded child labourers as the employers tend to use the loopholes and ambiguity in the act to their advantage. Also, there was a lack of will from the government to enforce the acts.
Despite having large number of bonded labourers identified, very few employers got prosecuted and even fewer got convicted. According to the Ministry of Labour’s figures, between 2000 and 2002 in all of India, there were only around 1800 bonded labourers being identified and released; and another around 17300 bonded labourers rehabilitated. However, there was no data showing how many children labourers are among those being freed.
Consequences of child labour
n general, the overall contribution of child labour in developing countries is so substantial that whether it would harm the economy is still under continuous debate.
The presence of a large number of child labourers is regarded as a serious issue in terms of economic welfare. It is evident from India ranking at lowest quarter (122th) in World HDI (Human Development Index) rankings; in spite of its rapid economic growth. India compares very poorly against countries with high level of human development on all indicators such as life expectancy, education and per capita income. Bonded or not, when children are working, they are put apart from the necessary education. Moreover, large number of low-paid Child labours lowers India’s per capita income. Their hazardous working condition lowers India’s welfare level too. Furthermore, high illiteracy rate puts long-term economic growth at risk.
Some suggest that child labour is necessary to some extent, as child labour takes large proportion of ‘Economically Active’ population in the developing countries. When the state of Andhra Pradesh reduced the number of child labourers by close to 300,000.simultaneously it also saw the sharp decline in the state revenue, which emphasized the importance of child labour to the Indian economy. At the end of the day, short run numerical GDP growth alone cannot determine overall GDP growth, when indicators like literacy level and health care should be taken into consideration too.
To keep an economy prospering, a vital criteria is to have an educated workforce equipped with relevant skills for the needs of the industries. The young labourers today, will be part of India’s human capital tomorrow. Child labour undoubtedly results in a trade-off with human capital accumulation.
Child labour in India are employed with the majority (70%) in agricultural and the rest in low-skilled labour-intensive sectors such as sari weaving or as domestic helpers, which require neither formal education nor training.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are tremendous economic benefits for developing nations by sending children to school instead of work. Without education, children do not gain the necessary skills such as English literacy and technical aptitude that will increase their productivity to enable them to secure higher-skilled jobs in future with higher wages that will lift them out of poverty
Source from Wikipedia, the encyclopedia