The Catastrophe of Child Labour - Evaluation of ​Complications and Suggestive ​Approach

Updated: May 15

Aryakumari Sailendraja

Chief Executive Officer, Permanent Executive Board

The Jurisprudential Entrepreneurship Project

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Children are an exceptional, indispensable and exquisite gift of divinity. They are always influenced by their dreams with their nature of innocence, self-confidence and honest thoughts. Every child has his or her own personal rights by birth. Children’s rights include their Right to association with both parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, health care and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of the civil rights and freedom of children from discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin or other discriminative characteristics. But these rights of children are violated and they are exploited by their involvement with the evil practice of child labour, which refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood. It obstructs with their ability to attend regular school and it is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. This practice is considered deceitful and illegal by many international organisations like ILO and UNICEF and to eradicate this contemporary crisis, they are working tirelessly. The article displays the present sorrowful conditions of Child Labour in the world and some suggestive approach to eliminate it. Moreover, it can be said that, a regular inspection, sincerity, strict provisions and eradication of the root cause that is poverty and illiteracy can make an ideal society without child labour.


‘Child Labour’ is an intercontinental issue in the present world by which the children not only lose their childhood to hardship, but it has a harmful effect to their physical and moral development. In their learning period, which needs love, care, education, health, morals and financial support, they are forced to work in a bad circumstance and become an economic hand of their family. Their dreams, their hopes suppressed or overpowered by the constraint and provocation of extreme poverty, illiteracy, increased population, growth of informal economy and ignorance of rules and laws. The question “Who is responsible?” is never answered by anyone because it is not so easy to eradicate this viral disease immediately due to the lack of strong implementation of law. The aspiration of complete eradication of this contemporary crisis hasn’t become true yet, for which there are more than 5 million children are involved in this crisis in today’s world.

The Present Condition: Drastic Comparative Scenarios

The adequate development of children is the prime concern of our country as well as the whole world. But, according to the traumatic data given by national census of India, the number of children working as child labor is estimated around 12.6 million under the age group of 5-14. Though Article 21A of Indian Constitution says about free and compulsory education to every child between the age of 6-14 and prohibits employment of children in hazardous occupation, it has no strong implementation for which these are the rules of only pen and paper. The latest government figure estimates that, a child is sexually abused in every 15 minutes in India. Around 1,06,958 cases of crimes against children are recorded in a year, in which 36,022 cases were under POCSO act. The data given by ILO says that, there are an estimated 186 million child laborers worldwide in which at least 120 million children between the ages of five and fourteen work full-time. If we consider those children for whom work is a secondary activity, the number jumps to 250 million[1].Half of them, more than 85 million are doing hazardous work. Around 1 to 2 million children are forced into sexual exploitation and pornography per year and thus exposed to serious trauma, diseases, alcohol and drugs. The estimated 15.5 million children are in domestic work worldwide. About ninety-five percent of these children live and work in developing countries. Asia accounts for more than fifty percent of child workers, but Africa has the highest percentage of child workers at one in three. Looking into the physical effects of work on children, it focuses on two different issues; (i) children who work in inherently dangerous surroundings; and (ii) work that impacts more oppressively on children than on adults doing the same job. By working in the dangerous occupations like military service[2], prostitution, mining, construction, industrial work with dangerous machinery chemicals, the child loses his memorable childhood and imperils his own future into an inconsistent question. Studies also show that when child workers face a workplace accident due to fatigue, inattention and insufficient knowledge of work process, they destructed more by the happened injury than those of adult workers. According to a 1984 study on occupational health in developing countries, it is stated that, some of the children who work in agricultural sectors, accept the lap of death due to exposure to pesticides[3]. Similarly, the child workers working in chemical industry suffer their immunity system by radiation & chemicals, which leads them to some prolonged incurable diseases. Environmental effects may be exacerbated because child workers are usually given menial jobs involving greater exposure to solvents, alkalis & toxic substances.[4] Besides this, poverty, poor health, malnutrition, over exertion etc., are the common problem of underdeveloped children. A child who has a burden to earn for his family, cannot get proper education. Lack of education has serious consequences on a child’s ability to improve his or her position in the labor market later years. Though there is an availability of free education in some schools, the poverty-stricken families of some children, who are unable to arrange food for family twice a day, never want to send their child to school & try to engage them to work & give economic support to family[5]. Looking into the situation of poverty & unemployment, they cannot understand the value of education & live their child as illiterate. Though the child wants to learn and study, being pressured by circumstances & situation, his own dream dissipates in an inconclusive and unresolved path. The children who are engaged in certain uneasy & detestable works like military service, child prostitution & street work, mislay their social development. They suffer more devastating psychological damage from living and working in an environment in which they are denigrated or oppressed. Those children are at a high risk of physical abuse, malnutrition & STDS. It is certainly very hard for them to deal with what they have experienced physically or mentally & to get out of this situation. Another problem regarding the child labor is their exploitation & unequal treatment. As child workers can be paid less than adults, involving child labors in any work is always cheap & profitable. They are unaware about their rights & exploited easily physically & sexually because of their age & position in society[6]. Acc to Bequele & Boyden, “child [labor] is virtually synonymous with [labor] without representation or rights”[7].In the modern widespread trend of slavery, child trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom etc., the bright future of children goes on the way of darkness. Those innocent humans are captured, purchased and enforced to work as a slave. To fulfill the need of workers, somewhere child trafficking become an illegal trend, in which children are trafficked for forced labor with little or no pay, prostitution, workers instead of debt and recruitment as child soldiers or beggars. The children who are involved in prostitution or commercial sexual activities, just pushed themselves into an uncertain future and used to live a painful hopeless life. The observation shows that, many children are also involved and used by adults without own will in some illegal activities like production and trafficking of drugs, criminal activities like buying stolen goods, shoplifting, robbery, theft and burglary only for income and survival. The practice of organized beggary by children shows a clear sorrowful image of poverty. Today people are concerning about more scholastic investigation in the light of eradication of child labor and it is considered that the detrimental and deleterious effect of child employment is a very vicious practice which should be eliminated soon. According to an observation in India it is estimated: “If all the workers under the age of 18 in India were removed from the labour force, fifteen to twenty million unemployed adults would be able to find jobs.” Though it is absolutely correct that, the poor and destitute children are enforced to work as laborers, by lacking proper education and being unlettered, they tend to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. It is abundantly clear that, the dependency on child labor recycles poverty and hopelessness by turning today’s generation of child laborers into tomorrow’s sick, unemployed, uneducated and unproductive adults who are tragic in their own lives and a burdensome weight on their countries’ hopes.[8]

Activities in International Level to prohibit child labor and its solution

It is said that, children are not entitled to exercise a wide range of rights on their own behalf as they are classified as legally incompetent in many national legal systems. The earliest legislation such as Roman Patria protests doctrine treated the child as parental and usually paternal property. In 1973, the ILO Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment C138 (hereinafter Minimum Age Convention) defines the general minimum age for admission to employment at 15 years and in the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention,1999 the word ‘child’ is defined as a person under 18 years of age. ILO and the Government of Netherlands have proclaimed schemes to work together for the abolition of child labour in Africa, with a particular focus on global supply chains. In 1992, the creation of IPEC[9] by ILO fight for this contemporary crisis and it runs in more than twenty countries of the world including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and some others and it aims to eliminate child labour by encouraging a worldwide movement. It is observed that, being influenced by this activity, in 1997, Nepal, Malaysia and the Philippines ratified the MAC and a number of other countries in the region, including China and Indonesia are seriously considering ratification. Many ambitious plans to eliminate child labour by 2020 is announced by United Nations[10]. Different countries are taking different actions by their own in their local level. In India, the mission of ‘Child Labour free Villages’ in the state of Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, becomes effective for the eviction of child labour in villages. Similarly, by the Federation of Uganda Employers, Child Labour monitoring committees has set up at the local level in which coffee, tea, rice and sugar sectors are also included.

Proposed Solutions

There are certain steps should be taken by international community as well as the authority to defeat the problem of child labour.

At first, an accurate and correct study and investigation should be done about the number of children studying and working as laborers.Legal provisions to control child labour should be strict and countries should review the old laws and enter new rigorous provisions to control it.The fields of hazardous works should be defined carefully and children shouldn’t be allowed to work in these fields.The accurate age of each employees working in any sector of the world should be checked attentively and child labour must not be allowed to work.The poor and helpless people in every corner of the world who really need others help and sympathy, must be provided the basic needs of life and development by the respective government of the country or other charity organizations for which they can afford their children’s schooling.A large-scale investment should be done by government to improve the education as well as schooling quality of a country which can increase the value of education near the illiterate society.The Workplace Risk Assessment (WRA) should be carried out by the authority, which plays an important role in protecting workers and business as well as complying with the laws of many countries.Till now in some countries, the children between the ages of 13 and 15 are allowed to do light work up to about 14 hours per week and for those children, the working limit of hours should be reduced under the minimum age.Collective bargaining agreements should be used to determine working conditions and terms of employment and managing relations between employers and workers by which child laborers can be checked.A link should be kept between ‘Labour Inspection Committee’ and the ‘Workplace Occupational Safety and Health Committee’.One or more monitoring system should be established to do detailed study about child labour and necessary steps should be taken.A good partnership should be started with international organizations who are working for the welfare of children.


Child Labour is an inhumane, completely avoidable institution which causes a lot of unnecessary death, sorrow and sickness. It is a horrid institution in human society. Every person has his own rights to live, to enjoy his life and to speak about his own rights. So, every human child in the world should get a happy life with better condition. But, this illegal trend of bondage and enslavement still exists in our society and steals the source of expected comfort from the life of exploited children. So, we have to move forward and make ourselves updated about this illegal trend, so, we can help the slaved children in our surrounded region. As poverty and illiteracy is the major cause of this contemporary crisis, we should try our best to literate the poor urban children and to improve their standard of living by providing them better education and making them aware about their future. Besides this, the state government should be aware and strict about this evil practice & should provide a comfortable life to its citizens by different developmental programs. Finally, it is way determinable that, this practice of servitude can be exterminated by raising awareness, encouraging sustained government leadership on the issue, engaging the private sectors to become the part of the solution and supporting anti-slavery advocacy movement. If our will is strong and goal is fixed, we must get a chance to see our beautiful earth as well as    an ideal society without exploitation.

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