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Child labor in India

Written by:
Swati Shalini
Published on

Being a resident of India, we all have experienced some form of Child labor around us, be it Full-time, Part-time or bonded labor, and so, as a responsible citizen of this country, it is our moral obligation to be informed about social demons such as child labor, and to lend support to children who are in desperate need for help.

India has one of the highest percentages of children below the age of 18 involved in labor activities. This is a scar deep-rooted in Indian society and needs to be addressed at the earliest. Child labor involves children under the age of 18 participating in economic activities on a part-time or full-time basis. Children resort to these activities in an attempt to add a certain amount of income and financial support to their families.

Child labor is a practice that deprives children of their childhood and is extremely harmful to their physical and mental development.



Poverty was and continues to be one of the prime causes of Child labor in our country. In a developing country such as ours, uneducated and poor people often consider children as financial help to feed and support their families. This forces the decision-makers of a poor household to send their children to work in extreme conditions for a minimal amount of money which may then help the family to overcome its financial crisis.

Lack of education:

It is a depressing reality that a majority of the poor children in our country are incapable of understanding the importance and power of a sound education. This is due to the lack of emphasis laid on education at a poor household, and moreover due to the fact that their parents are not financially competent enough to afford an education for them. This lack of education causes families to give prior importance to short-term child earnings, in place of the long-term benefits of education.

A survey conducted in 1998, the national census of India, estimated the total number of children aged 4-15, associated with some form of labor, to be at 12.6 million, out of a total child population of 253 million in the 5-14 age group. A more recent nation-wide survey conducted from 2009-2012 showed a marked reduction in these statistics, i.e. from 12.6 million in 1998 to 4.98 million in 2009-2012.

The Indian legal system has addressed and defined a total of 64 Industries as hazardous and therefore, it is a criminal offense for any employee to employ children in these hazardous industries. Notably, the Constitution of India prohibits child labor in hazardous industries (but not in non-hazardous industries) as a Fundamental Right under Article 24.



The Factories Act of 1948: This act states all such activities as illegal and against the law which involve children below the age of 14 years being employed in any factory.

The Mines Act of 1952: In light of the fact that mines are considered amongst the most unsafe environment to work in, this act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: According to this act, an employee who employs a child below the age of 18 years in a hazardous environment or under bondage, is considered a criminal, and whom so ever indulges in such activities, would be trialed and punished with a prison term.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: The law necessities and mandates free and compulsory education for all children aged 6-14 years. This act also mandates a total of 25 percent of seats in each private school to be reserved and allocated to children belonging to disadvantaged groups and to physically challenged children.

Part III of The Child Labour Act of 1986 declares regulations of conditions of work of Children as follows:

Hours and Periods of Work

(1) No child shall be required or permitted to work in any establishment in excess of the such number of hours as may be prescribed for such establishment or class of establishments.

(2) The period of work on each day shall be so fixed that no period shall exceed three hours and that no child shall work for more than three hours before he has had an interval for rest for at least one hour.

(3) The period of work of a child shall be so arranged that inclusive of his interval for rest, under sub-section (2), it shall not be spread over more than six hours, including the time spent in waiting for work on any day.

(4) No child shall be permitted or required to work between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.

(5) No child shall be required or permitted to work overtime.

(6) No child shall be required or permitted to work in any establishment on any day on which he has already been working in another establishment.

Weekly Holidays

Every child employed in an establishment shall be allowed in each week, a holiday of one whole day, which day shall be specified by the occupier in a notice permanently exhibited in a conspicuous place in the establishment and the day so specified shall not be altered by the occupier more than once in three months.

Disputes as to Age

If any question arises between an Inspector and an occupier as to the age of any child who is employed or is permitted to work by him in an establishment, the question shall, in the absence of a certificate as to the age of such child granted by the prescribed medical authority, be referred by the Inspector for decision to the prescribed medical authority.

Health and Safety

(1) The appropriate Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for the health and safety of the children employed or permitted to work in any establishment or class of establishments.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the said rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:

(a) cleanliness in the place of work and its freedom from nuisance

(b) disposal of wastes and effluents

(c) ventilation and temperature

(d) dust and fume

(e) artificial humidification

(f) lighting

(g) drinking water

(h) latrine and urinals

(i) spittoons

(j) fencing of machinery

(k) work at or near machinery in motion

(l) employment of children on dangerous machines

(m) instructions, training, and supervision in relation to the employment of children on dangerous machines

(n) device for cutting off power

(o) self-acting machines

(p) easing of new machinery

(q) floor, stairs, and means of access

(r) pits, sumps, openings in floors, etc.

(s) excessive weights

(t) protection of eyes

(u) explosive or inflammable dust, gas, etc.

(v) precautions in case of fire

(w) maintenance of buildings

(x) safety of buildings and machinery.