The world day against child labor
- Child labor is work that denies children of their childhood, their capacity to develop into something in the future, and their state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect. It harms their physical and mental development.
- It is either mentally, physically, socially, or morally dangerous and harmful to children. It prevents their schooling by denying them an opportunity to attend a school or makes them leave school early or needs them to mix school attendance with long and heavy work.
- Whether or not a particular work can be declared as child labor depends on age, the type and hours of work done, and the circumstances under which it is done. It all varies from nation to nation and among areas within countries.
- Children get killed, or injured, or diseased due to poor safety and health standards or working conditions. This results in permanent disability, disease, and mental damage. Often health problems develop or show up only later in life.
- Children are forced to work for various reasons. Most often, child labor happens when families face financial difficulties or doubts about the future. This can be due to starvation, sudden illness, or job loss to the wage earner.
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The world day against child labor
- Launched in 2002 by the International Labour Organisation, the world day against child labor is on the 12th of June. It is conducted to bring the world’s attention to the issue and to find ideas to combat and end it.
- The intention is to spread awareness about the serious mental and physical difficulties faced by minors forced into labor, around the world.
- It brings governments, local authorities, civil society, workers, employers, and organizations together to point out the issue and to help child laborers
- This year’s theme is “Act now: End child labor!” and is observed in around 100 countries all over the world every year. Due to the pandemic, it is being conducted as a virtual campaign
Other key numbers
- Children engaged in hazardous work in countries affected by armed conflict is 50% higher than the global average.
- 5 crore children, aged between 5-17 work in hazardous conditions
- 11 crores are engaged in agriculture and 3 crores in manufacturing and 1.65 crores in the services industry.
- Mining, construction, manufacturing, hotels, bars, restaurants, markets, etc. too employ minors. Many work as maids and babysitters for the wealthy.
- Around 22,000 minors get killed at work every year. The number of those injured or disabled is not even known.
- Almost 28% of child laborers aged between 5 to 11 years and 35 % of children aged 12 to 14 years do not go to school
- Child labor is more common among boys than girls of all ages. The gender gap becomes equal when household chores are considered.
- Child labor in rural areas at 14% is thrice that of 5% in urban areas
Child labor around the world
- Economic hardships trouble millions of families worldwide. Minors are denied adequate education, health, leisure, basic freedoms all of which are violations of their basic rights.
- Child labor fell by 1 crore between 2000 and 2016. But now again the pandemic has made numbers rise. For the first time in almost 20 years, it’s rising.
- By the beginning of 2020, there was an estimated 16 crore children who were working to support their families. 1 Crore was added within the last five years. The impact of the corona has added another 90 lakhs to that tally.
- That means 1 in every 10 children are now child laborers. Half of them work in hazardous conditions that directly impact their health and moral progress.
The impact of child labor
- Child labor leads to extreme bodily and mental harm, and even death. It has led to slavery and sexual or financial exploitation.
- Children do not get to go to school and even basic health care is denied, restricting their basic rights and threatening their futures.
- Children are enslaved, isolated from their families, and exposed to serious risks and diseases. They have to survive alone on the streets of big cities when still young. The world considers it a priority to eliminate this first.
Hazardous child labor
- Slavery or similar methods such as the sale and trafficking of children exposing them to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. Using or offering a child for prostitution or for the production of pornography
- Work that might harm the child’s health, safety, or decency. Examples include working underground, underwater, at dangerous heights, or in cramped spaces, expose children to hazardous substances, or temperatures, or noise levels that damage their health.
- Using a child for illicit activities like the production and sale of drugs.
- Forced or compulsory labor includes forcing them to engage in armed conflict.
- Work with dangerous machinery, equipment, and tools, or which involves the handling of heavy loads
- Make them work for long hours or during the night
- Since their bodies and brains are still developing, minors are weaker than adults and hazardous work is usually more harmful and lasting for them.
Work that’s likely to harm
- Dangerous environments like mines, where death or injury from tunnel collapses, accidental blasts, or rock falls.
- In production, its exposure to dangerous chemicals and substances resulting in burns and serious injuries. Having no protection against toxins like mercury and lead ends in chronic respiratory diseases in the lungs.
- Dangerous tools and equipment or chemical substances like pesticides are the risks involved in agriculture. Most children have either no safety equipment or use ones that suit adults which do not fit properly.
- Some are physically demanding when done repeatedly for long periods of time. Children sitting and bending over in one position cause spinal distress. Sewing, breaking rocks for road building, making matchsticks, etc.
- Carrying heavy loads making minors bend is another hazard. Working in the scorching sun or in heavy rain without protection can end in illnesses.
Migrant and refugee children
- Many children have been uprooted from their country by conflict, disaster, or poverty. They are at risk of being forced into work and even trafficked, especially if they are migrating alone or taking unconventional routes with their families.
- Trafficked children are often subjected to violence, abuse, and other human rights violations. Some go on to break the law.
- For girls, the threat of sexual exploitation exists, while boys are misused by armed militants or groups.
Laws in India
- Child labor refers to any work done by children under the age of 12, non-light work done by children aged 12–14, and hazardous work done by children aged 15–17.
- Article 24 of The Indian Constitution prohibits using children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous employment.
- The Right to Education Act, 2009 makes it mandatory for the state to ensure that all children aged 6 to 14 years attend school and receive free education.
- Child labor (Prohibition and Prevention) Amendment Act, 2016, and later amendments define the duties and responsibilities of state governments and district authorities to ensure effective enforcement of the provisions of the Act.
- The Ministry of Labour and Employment implements the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme for the rehabilitation of child laborers in the age group of 9-14 years who are rescued from work and provided with bridge education, vocational training, mid-day meal, stipend, health care, etc.
- Children in the age group of 5-8 years are linked to the education system in coordination with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Both groups are then absorbed into the formal education system. Around 2.5 lakh children have been rescued since 2015.
- An online portal called PENCIL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) connects the central government to state governments, districts, and the general public in monitoring and implementation of the above-mentioned laws.
- Any person who employs a child below 14 or a child between 14 and 18 in a hazardous industry can be jailed between six months up to two years and/or a fine between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 50,000.
- There is a 25% reservation for free education in private schools for children from lower economic backgrounds.
Human considerations and self-reliance
- In the absence of systems to safeguard their children, some parents take their children with them in search of their usual resources that involve selling goods in public places, farming, manufacturing, etc.
- Middle-class women take their children to their workplace and the shop owners can have their children in the shop premises during holidays
- Most governments intervene only in the case of poor communities
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The welfare of working children
- The influence and fatigue associated with manual work on education and subsequent dropout are often mentioned as a major reason for banning child labor.
- Children who work 2 to 3 hours each day rather than the ones who did no such work have the highest rate of attendance. It dips when minors are forced to work for more than 4 hours every day.
- This shows that carrying out some work has a positive impact on school attendance and a complete ban may not improve school enrolment.
- Total prohibition of child labor is mostly counterproductive, harms children, and goes against the wishes of the children themselves who want to help their families.
- Their families depend on the little earnings that the children bring, to survive.
- Governments should work to improve the well-being of working children. Flexible approaches to school working hours, incentives like school meals, and scholarships should be considered to bring down voluntary reduction in schools.
- The government should use its resources to bring down the worst forms of child labor like child trafficking, organized begging, forced labor, and other illegal activities since most work that children do does not fall within such categories.
- Securing decent rates for crops and better training should ensure greater relief when such children hit the labor market after their education.