Child Labour in India

India, as all developing countries is plagued with the problem of rampant ‘Child Labour’ being employed even by established companies either directly or indirectly. Children are employed in various industries be it textiles, garments or jewelry related industries or small road-side shops and hotels. Frequently we see sting operations conducted by NGOs exposing how child workers are used even by multi-national textile companies indirectly through outsourcing of tasks.

The usage of children as domestic help is the most rampant urban abuse of children as labourers. A recent rescue of a child working as a domestic help was carried out in Delhi. The report states that the child was made to drink urine, kept naked in the bathroom, was singed with frying pans and hit with brooms. The article shows how child labour is treated in India and the torture they have to face.

India currently has an estimated 2.4 mn child workers as per the 68th NSS survey[i]. If we include the part time workers[ii], this number shoots up to 3.22 mn. The working children are primarily boys who carry the burden of the patriarchal social construct in their roles as protectors/ providers of the family and at that young age have to shoulder the responsibilities of the family. Still India has special schemes for education and development of a girl child and not for a boy child.

 Urban Working Children

 Rural Working Children

If we see the charts above, the number of urban working children has not reduced. The disparity is stark in the ratio of working boys to girls. It has in fact  increased[ii] from 2.9x in 2004 to 5.9x in 2009 implying that roughly 6 underage boys work for every underage working girl. This trend which shows that boys are employed as child labour, six times more than girls  is very disturbing, as the childhood of these children is being snatched away from them at a very tender age.

Over the years inspite of embracing a progressive outlook, the role of burdening young boys as ‘providers’ to shoulder the family responsibility has not changed even a bit as is evident from the chart below.

 Child Labour

India is the only country in the world which celebrates a Children’s Day, inspite of having all the good intentions and policies, we have to reflect why the young boys are still being forced into growing as ‘men’ sooner than they should.

There is also one more trend that has come to the fore in recent times. Are we sending our young to work because our women are voluntarily choosing to go out of the Labour Force?

This is a point to ponder upon, let us all Stand up for a Cause…


[i] Based on Usual Principal Status Approach. The estimate is derived by multiplying estimated population in the age group and per 1000 working population for that age group.

[ii] Based on Usual Principal Status Approach & Usual Subsidiary Economic Activity Status approach. The estimate is derived by multiplying estimated population in the age group and per 1000 working population for that age group.

Note: The data above is for age group 10-14. NSSO employment surveys 60, 62, 64, 66 and 68. Usual Principal Activity Status  approach data. (Participation rate per 1,000)

Home Page: Stand Up for a Cause…

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5 Responses to Child Labour in India

  1. If we are not able to eradicate child labour, then next generation would not have any intellectuals left. This is a very dangerous situation being created.
    We are looking a state where entire manpower made up of Male children is being wiped off mentally. As a country there would be less number of soldiers on border to protect.
    On top of it we have are not providing any support by way of Government schemes to reduce this inequality.

  2. I see a downward trend in child labour in India. This gives me hope that people are waking up. I remember those small boys in tea stalls near our offices. Can we really say no to them?

  3. vishalvkale says:

    Basis data presented, a cursory analysis shows that the number is decreasing. While the absolute numbers, as you rightly pointed out, are worrisome, the trend should have been explicitly pointed out in the post above.

    Further, this post can be made more powerful by the analysis of the reasons for the same, as regards why do children work? How many are forced to,, and how many are working to prevent starvation?

    • Burt Phoenix says:

      You are correct Vishal that though the number of child laborers has reduced over the time period, still the number is huge and worrisome, as shown in the graphs above.

      The probable reasons for children to work, as mentioned in the article above could be
      a) The burden of the patriarchal social construct
      b) No special schemes for boy child
      c) Probably a part of the adult population choosing not to work.

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