Child labour is the practice of having children engage in economic activity, on a part-time or full-time basis, in a manner that deprives them of their childhood, and is harmful to their physical and mental development. As per sociological evidence, child labour exists in India primarily in the agriculture sector – in the form of debt bondage, wherein the children work in the creditor’s farms to service the repayment conditions of the loan taken by their parents.
Key causes of child labour in India:
Poor households utilise their children’s labour to supplement their income. While poverty causes child labour, child labour perpetuates poverty across generations by depriving children of education.
- Informal economy:
Informal economy or the unorganised sector remains largely unregulated. Defying laws prohibiting child labour, firms employ children to save costs, and also because children are seen as suitable for jobs in certain industries. Bangle making, fireworks manufacturing, and bidi making industries prefer children for their small accurate hands and smaller bodies that allow better reach into the dangerous narrow furnaces/kilns.
- Cultural causes:
Gender specific child labour also occurs at home, for example, when an elder sister has to take care of several younger siblings and support her mother in the household work. While such labour doesn’t count as economic activity in pure sense of the term, it does deprive such girls of their childhood and harms their physical and mental development.
In rural areas, children of artisanal workers and bonded labourers are sometimes motivated or forced by the local people to take up profession of their parents to cater to the village needs.
Read more about legislative framework and organisations governing child rights on this link: Child rights – Laws and Organisations – RTE, 86th amendment, POCSO Act, NCPCR, UNICEF, ASER Report