29 Dec 2011

Child Labour in India: Issues &Concerns

Child labourers have considerable stake in India’s GDP with near to eleven per cent of the total workforce being the children finds Nishit kumar, Head, Communication and Strategic Initiatives, CHILDLINE India Foundation.

Over the past ten years of about eight per cent per anum GDP growth, there has been widespread talk of India’s Demographic Dividend (share of population in 15-60 age group) arising out of the young average age of India’s population.

The theory is that the small the share of population in the below 15 and above 60, the greater the contribution of the productive population to GDP growth. Among the propagators of the India Demographic Dividend story are Dr. Manmohan Singh, Hon’ble Prime Minister and many notable figures around the world. Many present the story as though the demographic contours of India have been carefully sculpted through policy, management and governance. Far from it, India has a history of ignoring demographic trends and not preparing for it.

The 2001 census threw up the figures that children under 18 accounted for almost 43% of India’s population of about 450 million. Yet, inspite of the first UPA government manifesto of a commitment of nine per cent of annual Union budget for children, even as of 2011, a little more than four per cent is allocated towards children. In this gap between the needs of the world’s largest children’s population and (amongst) the world’s lowest per child budgets that is allocated in India is the story of Indian Children’s contribution to the GDP. The story of Child Labour in India.

The story is best unfolded by an examination of the Census data on child Labour. The Census data for child Labour has traditionally been presented as children upto 14 years:

Child Labour as reported by Census

The figure of 12.67 million as child labour has been widely reported. The department of Census, Government of India has just published provisional census data for the Census of 2010. (http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-common/censusdataonline.html) .

Once again the age wise data reported by the Census is 5-9 yrs, 10-14 yrs and 15-19 years. Since the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 has pegged the age of children, in line with international conventions, at 18, we can no longer overlook the population of working children in the age group of 15-18. However, the Census does not show this breakup.

Population of Main workers in Census, 2010:

All India Main Workers
5-9 yrs
10-14 yrs
15-19 yrs
Total India
% of child labour to total  workforce
Total workforce (all ages)

As can be seen in the table above, children upto 14 total

The Census also reports population of children in Marginal workers of India:

All India Marginal Workers
5-9 yrs
10-14 yrs
15-19 yrs
Total India
% to total  workforce
Total workforce (all ages)

Lets us see the picture when both Main workers and Marginal workers are combined:

All India Total Workforce
5-9 yrs
10-14 yrs
15-19 yrs
Total India
% to total  workforce
Total workforce (all ages)

If you take the children up to 14, the total number of children in the workforce is 12626505. Almost the same as previous census of 2001. The real picture emerges when you start adding the child work force in the ages 15-19. One could argue that 19 year olds ought to be excluded from the calculation of child Labourers. However the Census does not, as yet provide that data. However, a detailed analysis of the same shows that vast bulk of 15-19 yr olds have not completed 10th. So, they have been in the workforce before they turned 18. For the sake of discussion we have to include this age group (15-19) in the workforce.

The shocking news is that 11% of the workforce of India is child labour. One in every 10 workers in India is a child! If you allocate a tenth of India’s GDP to this share you can see India’s Child Labour has a stake in India’s GDP.

A detailed analysis of the various sectors presented in the Census data for both main and marginal workers clearly shows that some sectors are more prone to child labour than others.
What can be done about Child Labour? In 1979, the Government appointed Gurupadswamy Committee studied the issue of child labour and observed that as long as poverty remains, it would be difficult to totally eliminate child labour and hence, any attempt to abolish it through legal recourse would not be a practical proposition.

The Committee recommended a ban on child labour in hazardous areas and a multiple policy to deal with the problems of working children. Based on the recommendations of Gurupadaswamy Committee, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986. The Act prohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others.

6 Dec 2011

Bringing change

hweta, a 13-year old from Kuarmunda in Sundargarh district is an active member of the Children’s Parliament since 2009. She was confident when asking her parents about her rights. Since she joined the Children’s Parliament in 2009, Shweta decided to start raising awareness on various issues related to children from her school and community. She participates regularly in the meetings of the Children Parliament and most recently in the Children’s Parliament held on June 5, 2011 at Rourkela. During the session, she confidently asked the representatives about the need to provide children in the age group of 3-6 years, supplementary nutrition in the form of a cooked, nutritious meal at the AWCs.” She supported her questions with examples to show the real situation of children. 

Shweta, a strong advocate of the Children’s Parliament talks about her experiences and realises how far her character has developed throughout the whole- the new skills and experiences with children’s parliament.

I live with my parents in a remote village near a forest and hill called Kalosiria in Kuarmunda block of Sundargarh district. I love to sit with my children’s group. I learned a lot of my rights. I play, sing and dance in my group says Shweta.

Parents sometimes show some sort of bias among their girl and boy children. Earlier my parents were not allowing me to go out except their work. Children’s parliament gave me opportunity to come out and sit with other children and learn. I told my parent to allow me to play in the afternoon like my brother. Now I am playing in the afternoon with my group. They were not allowing me earlier to play. I got the courage to ask them to play as I learnt it from my children’s cadre training of CHILDLINE. I also ask for new copy and book for me in the class which my parent any how gives me. Earlier they were only asking me to manage with the old and borrowed ones. 

“Being a member of the Children’s Parliament is an amazing experience. I have become more confident, people show me respect when they know I am a member of the Children’s Parliament. I really feel empowered and have a role to play in creating change in the situation of children in my village.”

“During last year and now, I participated in trainings carried out by CHILDLINE and trainings have developed my skills in advocating for the rights of the children in my village and learned about Child Rights and Child Protection. I feel I am knowledgeable and more informed about problems encountered by the children in my village.”