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Child Labour in India: Causes, Consequences and Prevention

child labour in india

What is the first thought that comes across your mind when someone mentions the name India? Well, it would be the beauty, culture, food and history of the country, right? Or maybe you might think about the overpopulation, pollution and the poverty that is faced by people. Nonetheless, the problem of child labour in India is one that most people ignore. Not to add that between the ages of five and fourteen, 8.3 million people work as children. It is really hard to seem like you were unaware of this when there is such an astonishing quantity in front of us. Now let’s take a deeper look at the causes of child labour and what are few child labour facts that were not aware of.

Understanding Child Labour

The International Labour Organization defines child labour as any employment that impairs a child’s development of their physical and mental health and tends to rob them of their youth, dignity, and potential. youngster labour also refers to any employment that prevents a youngster from attending school or forces them to quit early. According to the Child Labour Amendment Act of 2016, a person who has not reached the age of 14 is considered a “child” in India.

Unfortunately, India is believed to be the nation with the largest number of child labourers globally. And this is even higher in urban areas where children as workers are being hired. The conditions in which these children are working are often unregulated and they do not even provide proper food or wages. There are also a high number of cases pertaining to sexual and emotional abuse of child domestic workers.

Causes of Child Labour in India

Despite having one of the strongest economic backgrounds, India has still failed to curb the causes of child labour. Here are a few of the causes of child labour in India:


Poverty is by far as we all know one of the main causes of child labour in India. Families that live in poverty have no other option than to rely on their children to make their lives easier. Parents who struggle to provide basic needs such as food and shelter see child labour as one of the ways for economic survival.

Lack of quality education

Quality education is the only barrier that we need to break to make children aware of the bad effects of child labour. However, such an absence of quality education has led to this miserable cycle. While a lot of kids do not have access to quality education at all, some kids might have access to education but it is subpar due to which children are forced to work prematurely.

Lack of child labour awareness

A lack of awareness especially among the adults is what creates this problem of child labour. Some families can hardly comprehend the psychological, physical and emotional toll that child labour takes on the kids.

Economic pressure on families

Families are burdened by the economic pressures especially due to unemployment in India. Economic pressure could also be due to mounting debts which make them resort to child labour as one of the solutions to supplement small income.

Demand for cheap labour

Industries are trying to get maximised results at minimum wages. This is exactly why child labour has taken the front. Children are promised wages that are in small amounts and are made to work.

Consequences of Child Labour

Child labour is a problem since it does not only impact the child but also the society and the nation as a whole. Here are a few of the effects of child labour that can be seen throughout India.

Affects childhood

Children are forced to give away their childhood to slavery. They are also denied any right to education and to have fun as a child.

Major health and physical problems

Children as you may see tend to suffer major consequences if they are made to labour long hours and perform jobs for which they are not emotionally or physically ready. This implies that the child’s intellectual, emotional, and psychological development may be impacted which leads to a degraded adult life.


Child labour has two consequences on poverty: poverty itself and the cause of it. Children are starting to enter the labour market to get money, primarily due to household poverty. The vicious cycle of poverty in households is perpetuated by missing out on schooling as a result of this.

Affects adult life

Child labour prevents children from gaining any sort of education or skills which makes a deficit of any opportunities they might have otherwise obtained for a decent job.

Affects the nation as a whole

The existence of a huge number of child labourers has led to something that we all know which is long-term effects on the economy of the nation as a whole apart. This also means there is creation an obstacle in the socio-economic welfare of the country.

Legal Framework and Child Rights

Since child labour has been such a problem in India here are a few of the child rights and laws that are actively being practised both internationally and in India.

International child labour rights

  • Declaration of Rights of Child, 1959 – It states that every child is entitled to special care and assistance.
  • International Labour Organization Conventions – This convention is directly related to ILO Convention 138 and 182 which corresponds to minimum age convention and worst forms of child labour convention.
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 – Sets out different rights such as civil, political, cultural, social and health.

Child rights and laws in India

  • Child Labour Act, 1986 – prohibits children from engagement in any type of employment
  • Child Labour Amendment Act, 2016 – Prohibits children from employment rights until they are 14 years of age. Children between 14 to 18 years of age are also prohibited from hazardous occupations.
  • National Policy on Child Labour, 1987 – Action plan for tackling child labour and rehabilitation of children who are working in hazardous occupations.

Prevention and Intervention Strategies

Addressing the issue of child labour is not just a single-person job, instead, it is a comprehensive approach which involves multiple stakeholders taking active actions against the problem. Here are a few of the prevention methods to eradicate child labour from India.

Access to quality education

Ensure there is universal and free access to education for all children. Implement the right to education in all schools while also focusing on lower rates of dropouts and increasing the enrollment of new students in school.

Easing out poverty

Tackling the root cause of child labour which is poverty is one of the ways to ensure that child labour is being completely removed. This will also provide more economic support to the family and promote better livelihood opportunities for parents.

Awareness and sensitization

Conduct various campaigns that target communities, parents and employers about the detrimental effects of child labour and how their emotional, physical and psychological development is affected.

International Coopertaion

Collaborating with various international organisations such as UNICEF and ILO will help provide access to expertise, and financial and technical assistance in eradicating child labour.

Support from Local Communities

Involving local communities helping them learn more about child labour and taking their support to prevent child labour will ensure there are more combined efforts from the society as a whole.

Role of Government and NGOs

The Indian government has adopted few laws, especially in the past decade to combat child labour. These laws include the Child Labour Amendment Bill, of 2016 and Bonded Labour System Act of 1976. The Indian government has also set up a few committees such as the Gurupadswarmy Committee to investigate the exploitation of children related to child labour.

The Ministry of Employment and Labour has also implemented a lot of projects to rehabilitate child workers since the late 1980s. Non-government organizations such as Child Rights and You, Care India have been set up by the government to fight against child labour.


Child Labour in India still remains quite a pressing issue which is also fueled due to a number of complex factors such as poverty, economic pressures and lack of education among many others. Finding the root cause of child labour and fighting against the same is the right way to go ahead. This fight is also a collaborative effort to ensure the future of not just the child but also the nation seems bright.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is child labour, and why is it a significant issue in India?

Child labour is the exploitation of children and making them work at small wages. This is a significant issue due to the poverty and the bad socioeconomic conditions of India.

What are the main causes of child labour in India?

Some of the main causes of child labour are as follows:
1. Poverty
2. Lack of awareness of child labour
3. Demand for cheap labour

What are the consequences of child labour on children and society?

Child labour has a lot of consequences on both children and society. Some of the extreme cases could also lead to bodily, and mental harm and even death.

What laws and regulations exist to address child labour in India?

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 is one of the laws that is designed to protect any child below 14 years of age from working.

How can we prevent child labour and protect children’s rights?

Here are a few ways in which we can prevent child labour and protect these children:
1. Partnering with NGOs and supporting them
2. Sending children to school
3. Educate and then spread awareness

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