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Child Labour and Human Rights Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Jamal, India May 21, 2004
Human Rights , Labour Rights , Child & Youth Rights , Media   Opinions
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We are guilty of many errors and faults,
But our worst crime is abandoning the children,
Neglecting the foundation of life,
Many of the things we need can wait,
The child can not,
Right now is the time his bones are being formed,
His blood is being made,
And his senses are being developed,
To him we cannot answer
His name is Today…
Dare we answer “Tomorrow”?

--Gabriel Mistral


Children are the blooming flowers in the garden of society. They are the most valuable assets of the nation as “Children of today are the potential citizens of tomorrow”. The quality of life, they relish today would categorically determine the quality of life of future population of the nation. The children have rights like other human beings, to be respected with regard to their integrity, dignity, interests and opinions. But significantly enough, children in India are deprived of even the basic human rights due to them, as they ought to be in any civilised society.

There is no denying the facts that children being defenceless and voiceless have suffered throughout the ages at the hand of society, community and parents. Millions of children, for example, are physically or sexually abused or economically exploited by those who are presumed to bestow them security and love. Despite hectic planning, welfare programmes, legislation and administrative actions in past five decades; especially after 1979 - International year of the child; the majority of Indian children continue to remain in distress and turmoil. We still score first rank in world when highest number of child labourers is talked about.

What is Child Labour?

It is difficult to define child labour since the terms “child” and “labour” both resist universal definition because of cultural and social differences from one country to another. ILO (International Labour Office) has specified the concept through its – Minimum Age convention 1973 – Where it encourages member states to set a minimum age that is not less then the completion age for compulsory schooling, or in any case not less than 15 years. So in India a child labourer is one who is below 18 years of age, out of school and has no avocation other than work. Although child work is not synonymous to child to labour, most children, in whatever society they live, work in one way or another. For example, in rural areas of India most of the children are involved in agriculture, cultivation forestry etc. Work of this kind is not considered child labour.

Situation of Child Labour

World wide at least 120 million children between the ages of 5 to 14 years work full time and there are 250 million or more children do child labour as secondary activity.[ILO Bureau of statistics 2000] Asia alone covers almost 60% of total child labour force of world, whereas 32% in Africa, and 7% in Latin America. Percentages of Economically active children in Asia between 10-14 years of age (Source ILO, Estimates & projections 1995)
Bhutan 55%
Nepal 45%
Bangladesh 30%
Pakistan 18%
Thailand 16%
India 14%
China 12%
Indonesia 10%
Vietnam 9%
Philippines 8%
Malaysia 3%

In an Indian Scenario – child labour is a phenomenon. The magnitude of the child labour force may be considered as an indicator of economic development, political maturity and social order of a region or a country. A larger child work force thus indicates symptoms of an underdeveloped country and unjust social order, official estimates of number of employed children below 14 years of age is 18.4 million which means every 8th child of 5-14 years in our country is a worker. While Non-governmental figures put it at 44 million to 111 million among which 15 million are bonded labourers. Government figures are definitely incomplete since full information never flows to government channels particularly in the case of informal sector. “Asian Labour Monitor” reveals that every 3rd houses hold in India has a working child. According to Human Rights watch (1996) there were 60-115 million working children in India and also estimated that in year 2000 there will be 20.25 million working children in India.

If regional distribution of child labour is considered, one can find that almost 90% of child labour is found in eleven states of AP, MP, UP, Maharashtra, Karnatraka, Bihar, T.N. Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujrat andWest Bengal. The highest number of cases is in Andra Pradesh (14.30%) & the lowest in West Bengal (4.4%).

But one of the very noteworthy facts of child labour in India is that there has been a fall in the overall population of work children during last two decades. The numbers of working children according to 1971 census was 10.75 million which increased to 13.64 million in 1981 but during 1991 it was 11.28 million indicating a 17.3% decrease in 10 years. Even out of total population there were 2% working children in 1981 which reduced to 1.34 in 1991.

Primary Factors

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Hi ! I am a professional social worker. most of my writings and poems are reflections of my day- today work and issues. I also write poems in Hindi, which so far cannot be posted on TIG.
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