Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Written by: Akshaya Rayavarapu
India is known as the second-largest populated country in the world. It has around 1.3 billion inhabitants. The census 2011 reveals that there are 10.1 million children who are involved in child labor in India out of which 5.6 million children are boys and 4.5 million children are girls. And it was estimated that around a total of 154 million children are into child labor globally, out of which 88 million children are boys and 64 million children are girls. It is also estimated that one in ten children globally is involved in child labor. There was a decline in the number of child laborers seen over the past few years, but still, they are being used in some forms, such as a bonded labor, trafficking, etc. In India, child laborers are still found widely prevalent in various industries, such as weaving, domestic service, agriculture, mining, fishing, etc.
Children are also being exploited in various forms in India. Child labor and exploitation of children are caused because of various factors, such as poverty, societal norms, migration, urbanization, etc. If this situation continues to persist then it might pose a serious threat to national economies. And it can also pose a serious threat to children’s physical and mental health. Children have to study and they have to be provided with quality education. Child trafficking is also a result of child labor. Children who are trafficked are subjected to forced labor either cheaply paid or unpaid, forced to become beggars, subjected to prostitution, etc. Child labor, child exploitation, and child trafficking expose children to physical and mental abuse, emotional and sexual abuse, and various forms of violence.
DEFINITION OF CHILD LABOR
The International Labor Organization (ILO) defined the term ‘child labor’ as “a work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development”. The International Labor Organization also mentioned the works that constitute child labor. They are, “A work that is mentally, physically, socially, or morally dangerous and harmful to children”; and “a work that interferes with the schooling of the children”, by depriving them of their right to attend school, forcing them to become dropouts from the schooling, etc. The International Labor (ILO) also mentioned that whether or not a work constitutes child labor is depended upon the age of the child, the type of work and hours of work, and also the particular objectives and principles pursued by individual countries.
EFFECTS OF CHILD LABOR ON CHILDREN
Education plays an important role in the upbringing of a child. Education helps children to explore and impart different skills in the child. People need different skills in this changing world to survive and earn a living. And education helps children to develop such skills. If the children are involved in child labor, then it will prevent children from exploring and developing such skills that would help them to survive in this changing world. At an early age, children are prone to a large amount of stress in most cases as they are given a burden to earn income for their families for household purposes. This will affect children mentally, physically, and psychologically too.
These effects can also become long-lasting in most cases. When these children grow up, the violence they faced when they were a child can create mental traumas, these children may also develop mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, hopelessness, etc. These children have to lose the hope to become literate individuals and achieve their goals in the future. They are forced to leave their education in order to support their family and this can cause a loss of confidence in the children. These children who are forced to work not only lose their childhood and education but also suffer from some serious health issues which can be caused due to violence or due to hazardous working conditions.
CAUSES OF CHILD LABOR IN INDIA
India is facing a serious problem of poverty. More than one-third of India’s population is living under Below Poverty Line (BPL). These people live under very poor conditions, it would be hard for them to earn a living, they get low levels of income. They are also not provided with proper jobs and they are also paid very low income. Such families do not have any other option than to force their children to work, earn and support their families, instead of providing them with proper education. In other cases, when any member who is earning bread in their family are dead or they are ill with some kind of health issues, then they are forced to join work to support their family. There are also some cases in India, where the parents sell their children to child traffickers to lessen their economic burden and also to earn some extra money.
LEGISLATIONS IN INDIA TO ADDRESS THE CHILD LABOR ISSUE
The government of India has adopted several legislations to address the issue of Child labor in India over the past few decades. The legislations such as The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 2016, The Mines Act of 1952, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009, The Factories Act of 1948, The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1956, etc.
● The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016 – This Act “prohibits the engagement of children in all occupations and prohibits the engagement of adolescents in hazardous occupations and processes”. Here, children are those under 14 years of age and adolescents are those under 18 years of age.
● The Mines Act, 1952 – This act the employment of children below 18 years of age in mines. Mining is a very dangerous occupation and considering the events in the past where major accidents led to the death of children, this act completely banned this occupation for children.
● The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 – This Act has mandated free and compulsory education for all children aging between 6 to 14 years. This act has also mandated that 25 percent of seats the private schools must be allocated for physically challenged children and children belonging to disadvantaged groups.
● The Factories Act, 1948 – This Act prohibits children below 14 years of age from being employed in any factory. This legislation has also mentioned some rules on who can work in factories and the working hours of adults aging between 15-18 years of age.
● The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 – This Act has been implemented to prevent children from trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
Child labor can show a serious effect on a country’s economy. Children are being exploited in various forms in India. Children are supposed to study and develop different skills to survive in this changing world. In India, child labor is still prevalent and it has been a serious issue in India for ages. If child labor continues to be persistent then it can lead to the exploitation of children at large rates. Child trafficking increases, children with skills that help in the development of our nation will be lost, and combating poverty without education becomes very difficult. Awareness regarding the disadvantages of Child labor has to be spread across the nation and the strict implementation of the existing laws should be done. If this is done properly, then India can combat the problem of child labor to most of the extent. It is important to make the people of India understand how important is education for a child’s growth. Therefore, it is necessary to educate a child to shape the future of a child and the future of
 UNICEF, Child labor and exploitation, available at: https://www.unicef.org/india/what-we-do/child-labour-exploitation (Last visited - June 24, 2021).  International Labor Organization, What is Child Labor, available at: https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang--en/index.htm (Last visited - June 25, 2021). the Ambika Ramachandran, Child Labor in India, available at: https://www.humanium.org/en/child-labor-in-india/ (Last modified- June 2, 2020).  The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2016 (Act 35 of 2016)  The Mines Act, 1952 (Act 35 of 1952).  The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act 35 of 2009).  The Factories Act, 1948 (Act 63 of 1948).  The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 (Act 104 of 1956).