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Editorials Today – Child labour and Child Labour Amendment Bill, 2016

Some facts

  • Child labor is the practice of having children engage in economic activity, on part or -time basis.
  • Children in India are engaged in child labor, including in agriculture and manufacturing.
  • The 2011 National Census data was released during the reporting period, and it shows that 4,353,247 children ages 5 to 14 work for 6 or more months during the year.
  • The Census data also show that 3,875,234 children ages 5 to 14 work for 3 to 6 months during the year
  • India tops the list when it comes to the number of children still living and working in bonded labour and slave conditions.
  • Children are forced to work as bonded laborers in brick kilns to pay off family debts owed to moneylenders and employers.
  • Children from India’s rural areas migrate for employment in industries, such as carpet making, spinning mills, and cottonseed production.
  • They are forced to work in hazardous environments for little or no pay
  • Children are trafficked within India for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in domestic service.

Causes  of growing child labor

  • Poverty and lack of social security are the main causes of child labour.
  • increasing gap between the rich and the poor.

Education

  • Most important factors driving children to harmful labour is the lack of availability and quality of schooling.
  • Many communities, particularly rural areas do not possess adequate school facilities.
  • Lack of quality universal education has also contributed to children dropping out of school and entering the labour force.
  • Parents with limited resources have to choose whose school costs and fees they can afford when a school is available.

Livelihood

  • Lack of earning members pushes poor families to make their children work in appalling conditions
  • Income from a child’s work is felt to be crucial for his/her own survival or of the household he belongs to.
  • For some families, income from their children’s labour is between 25 and 40% of the household income.

Growth of informal economies

  • Growth of low paying informal economy rather than higher paying formal economies
  • Rigid labour laws and numerous regulations have prevented growth of organised sector where work protections are easier to monitor, and work more productive and higher paying.
  • After unorganised agriculture sector which employs 60% of child labour, it is the unorganised trade, unorganised assembly and unorganised retail work that is the largest employer of child labour.

Weak laws

  • The laws and regulations in India concerning child labor are far from perfect. Laws are not  updated according to the seriousness of the situation.
  •  The persistence of child labour is due to the inefficiency of the law, administrative system and because it benefits employers who can reduce general wage levels.

Consequences of child labour

  • Children who work, fail to get necessary education.
  • They grow weak physically, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically.
  • Long monotonous work reduces their physical conditions and makes the children more vulnerable to disease.
  • Working limits their ability to contribute to their own well-being as well as to community they live in.
  • Young children are involved in dangerous and physically damaging work.
  • It makes it difficult for adults to find employment when employing children is cheaper. Child labour excludes adults from the work force and this creates poverty.
  • Because it means children are at work instead of going to school. Children are denied their right to full-time quality education which is the key to escaping poverty. By working instead of learning, the cycle of poverty is perpetuated.
  • The conditions in which children work is completely unregulated and they are often made to work without food, and very low wages, resembling situations of slavery.
  • There are cases of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of child domestic workers. The argument for domestic work is often that families have placed their children in these homes for care and employment.

Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act,

The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 prevents the employment of children below the age of 14 years in life-threatening occupations identified in a list by the law.

The act defines a child as any person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age.

Child Labour Amendment Bill , 2016

  • New legislation extends a ban on child labour under 14 to all sectors. Previously, only 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes such as mining, gem cutting and cement manufacturing were outlawed.
  • Children will be allowed to work in family businesses, outside of school hours and during holidays, and in entertainment and sports if it does not affect their education.
  • It also stiffens penalties for those employing children, doubling jail terms to two years and increasing fines to 50,000 rupees ($740) from 20,000 rupees ($300)
  • The amendments have also relaxed the penal provisions for parents or guardians as the employer of the child.
  • For adolescents between 14 and 18 years, whose labour was entirely lawful until now, the law prohibits their employment in work scheduled as hazardous.
  • In case of a second or subsequent offence of employing, minimum imprisonment would be one year which may extend to three years.
  • Earlier, it was minimum term of six months which may extend to two years.

Criticisms of bill

  • Ban on hazardous adolescent work is accompanied by changes in the schedule of hazardous work in the statute, bringing these down from 83 prohibited activities to only three.
  • Amended law prohibits only that child work which is considered hazardous for adult workers, without recognising the specific vulnerabilities of children.
  • Law permits under 14 years to now work in non-hazardous “family enterprises” after school hours and during vacations.
  • The family is defined to include not just the child’s parents and siblings, but also siblings of the child’s parents. And a family enterprise includes any work, profession or business in which any family member works along with other persons.
  • Considering that around 80 per cent of child labour is in work with family members, these changes might harm child in a serious way.

 

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