Child Labour-An Abominable Practice

Sri Samir Kumar Nanda


No civilized and equitable society can tolerate the denial of their rights to its children and lay claim to being called just ‘child labour’, thus is a shur on all of us and our sensitivity.

Child labour is a pernicious practice, a denial of the joy of childhood and access to social opportunities (like education) which eventually impairs the personality and creativity of children, the evolution and growth of a full being, within the broad ambit of child labour, the plight and predicament of girl children is worse. Such a practice which is abhorrent to our social conscience should, therefore, be eradicated from our social-economic milieu.


The UN defines child labour as “any work that is likely to interfere with the child’s education, or is harmful to its physical, mental, spiritual, moral & social development”. All work is not ‘labour’ only work that is exploitative is labour.

As per the definition sec-2(ii) of the Child Labour(P & R) Act,1986,child means a person who has not completed his 14th year of age.



With the advent of modern industrialism there came a tendency among the employers to have quick profits at low costs. Hence, in almost all countries there is employment of children in large numbers in both hazardous & non-hazardous occupations & processes. Employing child labour is a beneficial proposition as it reduces the cost of production. Added to this, another important advantage is easy availability, easy monitoring & control.

Position in the World

According to the International Labour Organisation Report, a shocking 125 million children toil in hazardous employment such as in the production of glass, brass, locks, fireworks, matches, carpets & bidis in industrial units scattered across much of Asia(61%),Africa(32%0 & Latin America(7%0.However,as per the report in the world around 250 million child labours are engaged in different employments like hazardous works, prostitution & bonded labour in almost all developed countries.

Child labour is a worldwide phenomenon and is growing everywhere. The UNICEF State of the World Children Report,1997 indicates that even highly developed countries like the UK & the US have a large no. of children as work force. According to the US General Accounting Office, the state of this problem in the US is also very depressing, there was 250% increase in child labour during 1983-90 in the US.

Child labour accounts for 5.2% of the total labour force in India, as against 17.3% in Turkey,20.7% in Thailand,19.5% in Bangladesh,18.8% in Brazil,16.6% in Pakistan,12.4% in Indonesia,11.5% in Mexico,8.2% in Egypt,6.6% in Argentina & 4.4% in Sri Lanka.


Position in India

In India, with industrialization a large number of children came to be employed in hazardous works and their employment still continues in certain industries in spite of certain legal provisions as regards their age, hour of work etc.

Child labour has been an issue since the pre-independence days. With the rapid industrialization the problem has further aggravated.

The numbers of working children in 35 States & UT in the country as per the census report are as follows:-


Census Year No. of Child Labour identified
1971 10753985
1981 13640870
1991 11285349
2001 12591667


Magnitude of child labour identified by different sources:-


Sources Year No. of child labour identified
ILO 1975 15.10 million
  1996 23.17 million
National Sample Survey Organisation, India 1987-88 17.60 million
  1993-94 13.50 million
Planning Commission 1983 17.36 million.
Operation Research Group, Baroda 1983 44 million.

 Position in Odisha

The number of child labour in Orissa according to the Census of India are as follows:-


Census Year No. of Child Labour identified
1971 492477
1981 702293
1991 452394
2001 377594


The child labour survey conducted in the year 1997 as per the directives of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has the following startling revelations:-

22543 hazardous establishments/occupations/processes include households were surveyed out of which 13,083 were found to be employing 23,761 child labour comprising 15,356 child labour engaged in the past and 8405 engaged at present.Besides,2,32,168 non-hazardous establishments/occupations/processes including households were surveyed 1,61,728 units were found to have engaged 1,91,461 child labour out of which 1,64,783 are engaged at present and 26,678 were engaged in the past. Total of 2,15,222 child labour were found including both hazardous & non-hazardous occupations and processes as per the report.


Health Condition

In Odisha 79% of its population depends on agriculture and nearly 48% live below the poverty line it is obvious that children are compelled to work in hazardous occupations and became vulnerable to occupational hazardous & diseases. The Health of child labour is a matter of least concerned among the employers for indulged in economic exploitations. The child labourers who work in insanitation conditions for long hours remained vulnerable and become disease prone and in many cases when they got diseases they are send back to their respective homes of the parents.


Educational Conditions

The problems of child labours are in plentitude. The economical & educational status of their parents compel them to engage themselves in hard physical work. Though there is ample opportunities for their schooling, yet the parents hesitate to provide them schooling facility on the plea that the major income of the child may discontinue which will affect their daily leavings.

Economic conditions

Child labour is the outcome of so many factors. On the one hand because of the poverty the family members, especially, the parents, children go to work. On the other hand due to the backwardness and labour intensive technology in the country, there is search for cheap labour which is available in the form of child labour. The major portion of the families in our State consisted of daily wage earners. The average annual income of family vary between Rs.2619 and Rs.20,867/-.

Steps Taken by the Government:-


Year Steps taken by the Govt.
1979 The problem of child labour received special emphasis following the submission of the Gurupadswamy Committee report on child labour.
1986 Govt. of India formulated a comprehensive law leading with the Child Labour(P&R) Act,1986.
1987 Govt. of India adopted the National Child Labour Policy.
1992 Govt. have launched a Rs.2.77 crore Child Labour & Support Project.
1994 Govt. of India set up the National Authority for the Elimination of Child Labour.
1994 The National Child Labour Projects started in the country including Orissa.


Proposed Solutions for the elimination of Child labour problem:-

(i) Door to door survey should be carried out in the country by some responsible agencies in a regular interval.

(ii) All the on-going poverty alleviation and developmental programmes are to be addressed to such families in order to improve their socio-economic status.

(iii) The purpose of awareness generation should be to sensitize parents about the evils of child labour the importance of education & to facilitate them to seek assistance under various poverty alleviation programme.

(iv) Combining legislation & its enforcement.

(v) The total scheme should be made free from the interference of political members and media person.

(vi) The problem of determination of age should be rectified.

(vii) The Inspectors under the Act should be empowered fully without any interference.

(viii) The Govt. officials should be instructed to treat the Project as missionary scheme. They should make free the Project from their respective states rules, circulars.



The social evil is being perpetuated by parents, the industrialists, the law implementers and to a certain extent the child labourers themselves.

Unfortunately, the law-makers pass laws and the executive makes policy-statements. But, they do very little to ensure the execution of the laws which they have themselves passed or piloted. The outcome of these is the continuous spurt in child labour. The Govt. should integrate child development with the majors programme of human development, poverty & child labour are inextricably interwoven, that one cannot be eliminated without eliminating other.

Source:- (1) Labour Welfare & Personnel Management

By R.C.Saxena.

(2) V.V.Giri National Labour Institute, Noida.

(3) Competition Master

(4) Census of India Report.

(5) Ministry of Labour & Employment ,Govt. of India.

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