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Written By: Sushmit Parsai

Worldwide, millions of children are forced into unpaid or paid work that deprives them of an education, a happy childhood and a prosperous future. Learn about the child labour situation in India and what more needs to be done.

The term "child labour " is frequently used to describe work that deprives children of their youth, their potential, and their dignity, as well as work that is hazardous to their physical and mental development. It refers to work that is: - dangerous and harmful to children mentally, physically, socially, or morally; and/or - interferes with a child's ability to attend and participate fully in school by forcing them to leave early; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work. There are many inter-linked factors contributing to the prevalence of child labour. Child labour is both a cause and consequence of poverty. Household poverty forces children into the labour market to earn money. Some perform child labour to supplement the family income while many also are in it for survival. The miss out on an opportunity to gain an education, further perpetuating household poverty across generations, slowing the economic growth and social development.

Facts regarding children's economic exploitation around the world:-

While child labour has decreased by more than a third globally in the last 15 years, it remains a severe concern and impediment to children's well-being. The number of child labourers worldwide declined from 246 million in 2000 to roughly 152 million in 2016, according to a 2017 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Nonetheless, millions of youngsters are being exploited for cheap labour, particularly in nations like India.

How many child labourers are there in India?

According to the ILO, there are around 12.9 million Indian children aged 7 to 17 years old working. When youngsters labour or do unpaid employment, they are less likely to attend a school or only go on a part-time basis, locking them in a cycle of poverty. Every day, millions of Indian girls and boys work in quarries and factories or sell cigarettes on the streets. The bulk of these children are between the ages of 12 and 17, and they work up to 16 hours a day to support their families. However, child labour in India can begin even earlier, with an estimated 10.1 million children aged 5 to 14 years old working.

As youngsters get older, they get more interested in working. In India, 20% of all children aged 15 to 17 are employed in hazardous industries and occupations. Child labour in India is difficult to quantify because it is frequently disguised and under- reported. In India, about 18 million children aged 7 to 17 are classified as "inactive," meaning they are neither working nor attending school. These missing Indian girls and boys could be subjected to some of the most heinous types of child labour.

What are the causes of child labour in India?

Despite the recent economic boom in India, more than a third of all Indians still live below the poverty line. The technical innovations and developments in the IT sector have not created jobs in poverty-stricken areas. People from rural areas with little education often see no alternative but to take their children out of school and put them to work to help feed their families. Due to the dire situation of many families, children are sold by their fathers and mothers to child traffickers or parents abandon their children in the countryside while they look for work in a big city. These children are especially vulnerable and are often exploited by traffickers who force the boys and girls to work for very low wages or nothing at all.

What forms of child labour are there (where do child labour work in India):-

According to an ILO survey, the agriculture industry (which includes cotton plantations and rice fields) employs the majority of the world's children (about 71 per cent). Around 17% of children work in the service sector, primarily as domestic workers or in restaurants, while another 12% work in the industry sector, which includes dangerous activities in mines. Many child labourers in India work in textile mills, helping with carpet manufacturing, or doing backbreaking work in brick factories and quarries for pitiful salaries. Other child labourers work for the tobacco industry, peddling "Bidis" cigarettes on the street. In businesses including steel extraction, gem polishing, and carpet production, children are also exploited as cheap labour. Child trafficking affects a shocking number of girls in India, whether by customary bonding or organised criminality. Commercial sexual exploitation of children is one of the most heinous forms of child labour, with an estimated 1.2 million children in India engaging in prostitution.

In India, there are 10.1 million working children between the age of 5- 14 (census 2011)

Some of the laws against child labour in INDIA:-

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009:

The law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also mandated that 25 per cent of seats in every private school must be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986:

The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law. The list was expanded in 2006, and again in 2008.

The Mines Act of 1952:

The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine. Mining being one of the most dangerous occupations, which in the past has led to many major accidents taking the lives of children is completely banned for them.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000:

This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to procure or employ a child in any hazardous employment or bondage. This act provides punishment to those who act in contravention to the previous acts by employing children to work.

The Factories Act of 1948:

The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also placed rules on who, when and how long can pre-adults aged 15–18 years be employed in any factory.

What needs to be done to stop child labour in India?

Much more needs to be done in India's political landscape to end exploitative child labour: child labour laws must be toughened and enforced more aggressively. Furthermore, acute poverty, which is a root cause of child labour, must be addressed. Ending 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 complete higher levels of school are more likely to find decent work as adults and can use their earnings to support themselves and their families without having to rely on child labour. Although schooling is obligatory and free for children up to the age of 14, pervasive poverty leads families to prioritise feeding their children above sending them to school. As a result, many youngsters miss school or do not go at all because they must work.

How does SOS Children's Villages in India help?

SOS Children's Villages in India are focusing on education and providing help to families to end child labour.

Parents, for example, are given vocational training classes to assist them to improve their skills and capabilities so that they can supplement their family's income. The family is no longer dependent on having their children work just to make ends meet now that they have the potential to boost their present income.

The financial barrier to sending their children to school is reduced when a family's income is constant. SOS Family Strengthening Programs also assist with the purchase of school supplies and uniforms, making education more accessible to families in need. The SOS Family Strengthening Program and Social Centres are engaged in 31 places around India, primarily in disadvantaged rural communities and slums in bigger cities, where the greatest need exists. In total, 33,000 family members are receiving assistance so that India's most vulnerable children can receive the care and education they require to break the cycle of child labour. Donate today to SOS Children's Villages' India Family Strengthening Programs.

If children can no longer stay with their parents or extended family, SOS Children’s Villages India will invite them to live in one of its SOS Villages where they are provided with a loving SOS mother, quality education, healthcare, nutritious food and all the things necessary for a bright future. You can help these children by sponsoring a child in India for about $1/day.

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