Child labour is not a mere index in a nation’s economic health report, but is a factor that has several far-reaching impacts, most of them for the worse.
With a staggering figure of 160 million children engaged in child labour worldwide, reported at the start of 2020, India has some of the worst figures in Asia, in the segment. The country of 1.4 billion is constantly facing challenges of ever-surging numbers in the infamous category and it continues to impact its overall economic numbers. Child labour is not a mere index in a nation’s economic health report, but is a factor that has several far-reaching impacts, most of them for the worse. On World Day Against Child Labour, we take into view the effects of child trafficking and child labour, how both are entwined and how they collectively pose major hindrances to the economic growth of the country.
What numbers say about the child labour child situation in India
A recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) titled ‘Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, trends and the road forward’ has shed light on the concerning issue of child labour across the globe.. This distressing figure accounts for nearly 1 in 10 children globally, indicating the severity of the problem. India, in particular, continues to grapple with the issue of child labour. The report highlights that according to the 2011 Census, there are still 12.6 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 who are involved in work. This alarming statistic represents 3.9 per cent of the total child population in the country. The persistence of child labour in India and its prevalence worldwide underscores the urgent need for concerted efforts to combat this issue. Governments, international organizations, and civil society must work together to protect children’s rights and create opportunities for their education and development, ensuring a brighter future for all.
It gets worse with time
Child Labour in India, published in the International Journal of Law Management & Humanities, in 2021 takes into consideration statistics from 2017 where India holds a disheartening distinction as one of the leading countries in Asia with a staggering 33 million children engaged in various forms of child labour. The burden of child labour is predominantly borne by rural India, which accounts for a staggering 80% of the total cases in the country. These vulnerable children from rural areas find themselves caught in the vicious web of exploitation.
Uttar Pradesh, according to the Census of 2011, houses the highest number of child labourers in India. Shockingly, apart from being subjected to industrial and agricultural tasks, many of these young souls are forced to work as domestic help or babysitters for the privileged class.
Despite the existence of a 25 per cent reservation for free education in private schools for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the prevalence of child labour persists.
While several children are rescued, many still remain hapless
Several Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and activists work in the space of rescuing trafficked children, forced into bonded labour, organized beggary and even prostitution. While these numbers are few, they do raise hope for a greater future for many such children, who otherwise would’ve grown to be a smothered and bullied individual, with no self-awareness. One such organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), has worked in rescuing and rehabilitating vulnerable children. According to data shared by them, they have rescued over 1 Lakh 19 thousand children to date. In the past five years (2018-2023), they have conducted a total of 30,100 rescues, including both direct and indirect interventions. These numbers not only show the extent of work such organizations do in this space, but also project an idea of how worse the actual figures are, and how much more attention the topic needs. Most of the trafficked children are not that fateful to be rescued and are somehow still entrapped in the clutches of child labour. It is not only ruining their future but the future of the country as a whole.
Contributing factors in child labour in India
According to unicef.org, there are many factors that contribute to child labour in India. Poverty is at the top of the list, while lack of work opportunities, social norms, emergencies and migration also contribute to it. The article also highlights prevalent social inequality, accompanies by discrimination, which forces children from the marginalized sections to work. Such children prefer working to make ends meet, rather than spending their time in education. They are deprived of their right to go to school and this is considered one of the primary causes of the intergenerational cycle of poverty. The effects of child labour are not only restricted to a particular family or individual unit, they are also reflected in the national economy. It adds to the indices of national education, physical and mental health.
The article by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), also throws light on the situation of child trafficking and how trafficked children are subjected to all forms of abuse. These include, mental, physical, emotional and worse, sexual. There is a huge link between child trafficking and child labour. Besides, trafficked children are also forced into social evils such as prostitution, beggary, illegal adaptation and forced into marriage. They provide cheap labour to industries and businesses across the country and are constantly exposed to violence and HIV infection. Armed groups and militants also target such children to recruit and brainwash them.
It would take more than just the Government to overcome the menace of child trafficking and child labour in a country like India. Vigilance is required from every nook and corner, and activists, NGOs, local businesses and even common citizens are required to raise their voices against child labour. When more cases of children being used, as labour, would be reported, only then a visible change can occur, otherwise, the stats are expected to surge every year.