Child labour is the practice of having children engage in economic activity, on a part- or full-time basis. The practice deprives children of their childhood, and is harmful to their physical and mental(mind) development. Poverty, lack of good schools and the growth of the informal economy are considered to be the key causes of child labour in India. Some other causes of Child Labour in India are cheap wages and accessibility to factories that can produce the maximum amount of goods for the lowest possible price. Corruption in the government of India also plays a major role in child labour because laws that should be enforced to prevent child labour are not because of the corrupt government.
The 1998 national census of India estimated the total number of child labourers, aged 6 to 14, to be at 12.6 million, out of a total child population of 253 million in the 5 to 14 age group. However, in 2009–10 a nationwide survey found the prevalence of child labour had reduced to 4.98 million children (or less than 2% of the children in the 5 to 14 age group). The 2011 national census of India found the total number of child labourers, aged 5–14, to be at 4.35 million, and the total child population to be 259.64 million in that age group. The child labour problem is not unique to India; worldwide, about 217 million children work, many full-time.
As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, amended in 2016 ("CLPR Act"), a "Child" is defined as any person below the age of 14 and the CLPR Act prohibits employment of a Child in any employment including as a domestic help. It is a cognizable criminal offence to employ a Child for any work. Children between age of 14 and 18 are defined as "Adolescent" and the law allows Adolescent to be employed except in the listed hazardous occupation and processes which include mining, inflammable substance and explosives related work and any other hazardous process as per the Factories Act, 1948. In 2001, an estimated 1% of all child workers, or about 120,000 children in India were in a hazardous job. Notably, the Constitution of India prohibits child labour in hazardous industries (but not in non-hazardous industries) as a Fundamental Right under Article 24.UNICEF estimates that India with its larger population, has the highest number of labourers in the world under 14 years of age, while sub-Saharan African countries have the highest percentage of children who are deployed as child labourers. The International Labour Organisation estimates that agriculture, at 60 percent, is the largest employer of child labour in the world, while the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates 70% of child labour is deployed in agriculture and related activities. Outside of agriculture, child labour is observed in almost all informal sectors of the Indian economy.
Companies including Gap,Primark,Monsanto have been criticised for child labour in their products. The companies claim they have strict policies against selling products made by underage children, but there are many links in a supply chain making it difficult to oversee them all. In 2011, after three years of Primark's effort, BBC acknowledged that its award-winning investigative journalism report of Indian child labour use by Primark was a fake. The BBC apologised to Primark, to Indian suppliers and all its viewers. Another company that has come under much scrutiny was Nike. Nike was under pressure to speak up about alleged sweatshops that harbored children that the company was exploiting to make their sneakers. Since then Nike has come out with a separate web page that specifically points out where they get there products from and where there products are manufactured.
In December 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor and India figured among 74 countries where a significant incidence of critical working conditions has been observed. Unlike any other country[clarification needed], 23 goods were attributed to India, the majority of which are produced by child labour in the manufacturing sector.
In addition to the constitutional prohibition of hazardous child labour, various laws in India, such as the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) of Children Act-2000, and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act-1986 provide a basis in law to identify, prosecute and stop child labour in India.
The term 'child labour', suggests ILO, is best defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, or work whose schedule interferes with their ability to attend regular school, or work that affects in any manner their ability to focus during war and clubs and boutros, school or experience a healthy childhood.
UNICEF defines child labour differently. A child, suggests UNICEF, is involved in child labour activities if between 5 and 11 years of age, he or she did at least one hour of economic activity or at least 28 hours of domestic work in a week, and in case of children between 12 and 14 years of age, he or she did at least 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of economic activity and domestic work per week. UNICEF in another report suggests, "Children’s work needs to be seen as happening along a continuum, with destructive or exploitative work at one end and beneficial work – promoting or enhancing children’s development without interfering with their schooling, recreation and rest – at the other. And between these two poles are vast areas of work that need not negatively affect a child’s development."
India's Census 2001 office, defines child labour as participation of a child less than 17 years of age in any economically productive activity with or without compensation, wages or profit. Such participation could be physical or mental or both. This work includes part-time help or unpaid work on the farm, family enterprise or in any other economic activity such as cultivation and milk production for sale or domestic consumption. Indian government classifies child labourers into two groups: Main workers are those who work 6 months or more per year. And marginal child workers are those who work at any time during the year but less than 6 months in a year.
Some child rights activists argue that child labour must include every child who is not in school because he or she is a hidden child worker. UNICEF, however, points out that India faces major shortages of schools, classrooms and teachers particularly in rural areas where 90 percent of child labour problem is observed. About 1 in 5 primary schools have just one teacher to teach students across all grades.
After its independence from colonial rule, India has passed a number of constitutional protections and laws on child labour. The Constitution of India in the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy prohibits child labour below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or castle or engaged in any other hazardous employment (Article 24). The constitution also envisioned that India shall, by 1960, provide infrastructure and resources for free and compulsory education to all children of the age six to 14 years. (Article 21-A and Article 45).
India has a federal form of government, and labour being a subject in the Concurrent List, both the central and state governments can and have legislated on child labour. The major national legislative developments include the following:
The Factories Act of 1948: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory. The law also placed rules on who, when and how long can pre-adults aged 15–18 years be employed in any factory.
The Mines Act of 1952: The Act prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine.
The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: As per the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, amended in 2016 ("CLPR Act"), a "Child" is defined as any person below the age of 14 and the CLPR Act prohibits employment of a Child in any employment including as a domestic help (except helping own family in non-hazardous occupations). It is a cognizable criminal offence to employ a Child for any work. Children between age of 14 and 18 are defined as "Adolescent" and the law allows Adolescent to be employed except in the listed hazardous occupation and processes which include mining, inflammable substance and explosives related work and any other hazardous process as per the Factories Act, 1948.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2015: This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to keep a child in bondage for the purpose of employment.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009: The law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. This legislation also mandated that 25 percent of seats in every private school must be allocated for children from disadvantaged groups and physically challenged children.(It is not applied through)
India formulated a National Policy on Child Labour in 1987. This Policy seeks to adopt a gradual & sequential approach with a focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations. It envisioned strict enforcement of Indian laws on child labour combined with development programs to address the root causes of child labour such as poverty. In 1988, this led to the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) initiative. This legal and development initiative continues, with a current central government funding of Rs. 6 billion, targeted solely to eliminate child labour in India. Despite these efforts, child labour remains a major challenge for India. No, child below age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any hazardous employment
For much of human history and across different cultures, children less than 17 years old have contributed to family welfare in a variety of ways. UNICEF suggests that poverty is the biggest cause of child labour. The report also notes that in rural and impoverished parts of developing and undeveloped parts of the world, children have no real and meaningful alternative. Schools and teachers are unavailable. Child labour is the unnatural result. A BBC report, similarly, concludes poverty and inadequate public education infrastructure are some of the causes of child labour in India.
Between boys and girls, UNICEF finds girls are two times more likely to be out of school and working in a domestic role. Parents with limited resources, claims UNICEF, have to choose whose school costs and fees they can afford when a school is available. Educating girls tends to be a lower priority across the world, including India. Girls are also harassed or bullied at schools, sidelined by prejudice or poor curricula, according to UNICEF. Solely by virtue of their gender, therefore, many girls are kept from school or drop out, then provide child labour.
The international labour organisation (ILO) and Spreading Smiles Through Education Organisation (OSSE) suggests poverty is the greatest single force driving children into the workplace. Income from a child's work is felt to be crucial for his/her own survival or for that of the household. For some families, income from their children's labour is between 25 and 40% of the household income.
According to a 2008 study by ILO, among the 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. Even when schools are sometimes available, they are too far away, difficult to reach, unaffordable or the quality of education is so poor that parents wonder if going to school is really worthwhile. In government-run primary schools, even when children show up, government-paid teachers do not show up 25% of the time. The 2008 ILO study suggests that illiteracy resulting from a child going to work, rather than a quality primary and secondary school, limits the child's ability to get a basic educational grounding which would in normal situations enable them to acquire skills and to improve their prospects for a decent adult working life.
An albeit older report published by UNICEF outlines the issues summarized by the ILO report. The UNICEF report claimed that while 90% of child labour in India is in its rural areas, the availability and quality of schools is decrepit; in rural areas of India, claims the old UNICEF report, about 50% of government funded primary schools that exist do not have a building, 40% lack a blackboard, few have books, and 97% of funds for these publicly funded school have been budgeted by the government as salaries for the teacher and administrators. A 2012 Wall Street Journal article, reports while the enrollment in India's school has dramatically increased in recent years to over 96% of all children in the 6–14-year age group, the infrastructure in schools, aimed in part to reduce child labour, remains poor – over 81,000 schools do not have a blackboard and about 42,000 government schools operate without a building with makeshift arrangements during monsoons and inclement weather.
Biggeri and Mehrotra have studied the macroeconomic factors that encourage child labour. They focus their study on five Asian nations including India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. They suggest that child labour is a serious problem in all five, but it is not a new problem. Macroeconomic causes encouraged widespread child labour across the world, over most of human history. They suggest that the causes for child labour include both the demand and the supply side. While poverty and unavailability of good schools explain the child labour supply side, they suggest that the growth of low paying informal economy rather than higher paying formal economy – called organised economy in India – is amongst the causes of the demand side. India has rigid labour laws and numerous regulations that prevent growth of organised sector where work protections are easier to monitor, and work more productive and higher paying.
The unintended effect of Indian complex labour laws is the work has shifted to the unorganised, informal sector. As a result, after the 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. If macroeconomic factors and laws prevent growth of formal sector, the family owned informal sector grows, deploying low cost, easy to hire, easy to dismiss labour in form of child labour. Even in situations where children are going to school, claim Biggeri and Mehrotra, children engage in routine after-school home-based manufacturing and economic activity. Other scholars too suggest that inflexibility and structure of India's labour market, size of informal economy, inability of industries to scale up and lack of modern manufacturing technologies are major macroeconomic factors affecting demand and acceptability of child labour.
Cigno et al. suggest the government planned and implemented land redistribution programs in India, where poor families were given small plots of land with the idea of enabling economic independence, have had the unintended effect of increased child labour. They find that smallholder plots of land are labour-intensively farmed since small plots cannot productively afford expensive farming equipment. In these cases, a means to increase output from the small plot has been to apply more labour, including child labour.
Bonded child labour in India
Main article: Debt bondage in India
Bonded child labour is a system of forced, or partly forced, labour under which the child, or usually child's parent enter into an agreement, oral or written, with a creditor. The child performs work as in-kind repayment of credit. In this 2005 ILO report, debt-bondage in India emerged during the colonial period, as a means of obtaining reliable cheap labour, with loan and land-lease relationships implemented during that era of Indian history. These were regionally called Hali, or Halwaha, or Jeura systems; and was named by the colonial administration as the indentured labour system. These systems included bonded child labour. Over time, claims the ILO report, this traditional forms of long-duration relationships have declined.
In 1977, India passed legislation that prohibits solicitation or use of bonded labour by anyone, of anyone including children. Evidence of continuing bonded child labour continue. A report by the Special Rapporteur to India's National Human Rights Commission, reported the discovery of 53 child labourers in 1996 in the state of Tamil Nadu during a surprise inspection. Each child or the parent had taken an advance of Rs. 10,0000 to 25,0000. The children were made to work for 12 to 14 hours a day and received only Rs. 2 to 3 per day as wages. According to an ILO report, the extent of bonded child labour is difficult to determine, but estimates from various social activist groups range up to 350,000 in 2001.
Despite its legislation, prosecutors in India rarely use the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976 to prosecute those responsible. According to one report, the prosecutors have no direction from the central government that if a child is found to be underpaid, the case should be prosecuted not only under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986, the case should include charges under the Bonded Labour Act of India. The few enforcement actions have had some unintended effects. While there has been a decrease in children working in factories because of enforcement and community vigilance committees, the report claims poverty still compels children and poor families to work. The factory lends money to whoever needs it, puts a loom in the person’s home, and then the family with children works out of their homes, bring finished product to pay interest and get some wages. The bonded child and family labour operations were moving out of small urban factories into rural homes.
Consequences of child labour
The presence of a large number of child labourers is regarded as a serious issue in terms of economic welfare. Children who work fail to get necessary education. They do not get the opportunity to develop physically, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically. In terms of the physical condition of children, children are not ready for long monotonous work because they become exhausted more quickly than adults. This reduces their physical conditions and makes the children more vulnerable to disease.
Children in hazardous working conditions are even in worse condition. Children who work, instead of going to school, will remain illiterate which limits their ability to contribute to their own well being as well as to community they live in. Child labour has long term adverse effects for India.
To keep an economy prospering, a vital criterion is to have an educated workforce equipped with relevant skills for the needs of the industries. The young labourers today, will be part of India’s human capital tomorrow. Child labour undoubtedly results in a trade-off with human capital accumulation.
Child labour in India are employed with the majority (70%) in agriculture some in low-skilled labour-intensive sectors such as sari weaving or as domestic helpers, which require neither formal education nor training, but some in heavy industry such as coal mining.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are tremendous economic benefits for developing nations by sending children to school instead of work. Without education, children do not gain the necessary skills such as English literacy and technical aptitude that will increase their productivity to enable them to secure higher-skilled jobs in future with higher wages that will lift them out of poverty.
In the year 1999, the International Labour Organisation co-published a report with Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers, a trade union. The ILO report claimed that child labour is prevalent in the Indian diamond industry. International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in a separate 1997 press release observed that child labour continued to flourish in India's diamond industry. Not everyone agreed with these claims. The South Gujarat Diamond Workers Association, another trade union, acknowledged child labour is present but it is not systematic, is less than 1% and against local industry norms. Local diamond industry businessmen too downplayed these charges.
According to the 1999 ILO paper, India annually cuts and polishes 70 percent of the world’s diamonds by weight, or 40 percent by value. Additionally, India contributes 95 percent of the emeralds, 85 percent of the rubies, and 65 percent of the sapphires worldwide. India processes these diamonds and gems using traditional labour-intensive methods. About 1.5 million people are employed in the diamond industry, mostly in the unorganised sector. The industry is fragmented into small units, each employing a few workers. The industry has not scaled up, organised, and big operators absent.
The ILO paper claims that this is to avoid the complex labour laws of India. The export order is split, work is subcontracted through many middlemen, and most workers do not know the name of enterprise with the export order. In this environment, claims the ILO report, exact number of child labourers in India's diamond and gem industry is unknown; they estimate that child labourers in 1997 were between 10,000 and 20,000 out of 1.5 million total workers (about 1 in 100). The ILO report claims the causes for child labour include parents who send their children to work because they see education as expensive, education quality offering no real value, while artisan work in diamond and gem industry to be more remunerative as the child grows up.
A more recent study from 2005, conducted at 663 manufacturing units at 21 different locations in India's diamond and gem industry, claims incidence rates of child labour have dropped to 0.31%.
The town of Sivakasi in South India, known for its fireworks and matchsticks industries, has been reported to employ child labour in the production of fireworks. In 2011, Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu was home to over 9,500 firecracker factories and produced almost 100 percent of total fireworks output in India. The fireworks industry employed about 150,000 people at an average of 15 employees per factory. Most of these were in unorganized sector, with a few registered and organized companies.
In 1989, Shubh Bhardwaj reported that child labour is present in India's fireworks industry, and safety practices poor. Child labour is common in small shed operation in the unorganized sector. Only 4 companies scaled up and were in the organized sector with over 500 employees; the larger companies did not employ children and had superior safety practices and resources. The child labour in small, unorganized sector operations suffered long working hours, low wages, unsafe conditions and tiring schedules.
A more recent 2002 report by international labour organization (ILO), claims that child labour is significant in Tamil Nadu's fireworks, matches or incense sticks industries. However, these children do not work in the formal economy and corporate establishments that produce for export. The child labourers in manufacturing typically toil in supply chains producing for the domestic market of fireworks, matches or incense sticks. The ILO report claims that as the demand for these products has grown, the formal economy and corporate establishments have not expanded to meet the demand, rather home-based production operations have mushroomed. This has increased the potential of child labour. Such hidden operations make research and effective action difficult, suggests ILO.
A 2003 Human Rights Watch report, claims children as young as five years old are employed and work for up to 12 hours a day and six to seven days a week in silk industry. These children, claims, are bonded labour; even though the government of India denies existence of bonded child labour, these silk industry child are easy to find in Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, claims Children are forced to dip their hands in scalding water to palpate the cocoons and are often paid less than Rs 10 per day.
In 2012, a German news investigative report claimed that in states like Karnataka, non-governmental organisations had found up to 15,000 children working in the 1,100 silk factories in 1998. In other places, thousands of bonded child labourers were present in 1995. But today, after UNICEF and NGOs got involved, child labour figure is drastically lower, with the total estimated to be fewer than a thousand child labourers. The released children were back in school, claims the report.
Siddartha Kara finds about 20% of carpets manufactured in India could involve child labour. He notes, "determining the extent to which the hand-made carpet supply chain from India to the U.S.A. is tainted by slavery and child labour requires an additional exercise in supply chain tracing." Kara's study also finds variation in child labour practices between ethnic and religious groups. Kara and colleagues report highest level of child labour in Muslim community carpet operations, and the presence of debt bonded child labourers in Muslim villages.
Official estimates for child labour working as domestic labour and in restaurants is more than 2,500,000 while NGOs estimate the figure to be around 20 million. The Government of India expanded the coverage of The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act and banned the employment of children as domestic workers and as workers in restaurants, dhabas, hotels, spas and resorts effective from 10 October 2006.
Despite laws enacted in 1952, prohibiting employment of people under the age of 18 in the mines primitive coal mines in Meghalaya using child labour were discovered and exposed by the international media in 2013.
A related area identified as problematic are the granite quarries.
Initiatives against child labour in India
In 1979, the Indian government formed the Gurupadswamy Committee to find about child labour and means to tackle it. The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act was enacted based on the recommendations of the committee in 1986. A National Policy on Child Labour was formulated in 1987 to focus on rehabilitating children working in hazardous occupations. The Ministry of Labour and Employment had implemented around 100 industry-specific National Child Labour Projects to rehabilitate the child workers since 1988.
The Indian government has enacted a plethora of acts, laws, organizations, and institutions to combat the overwhelming prominence of child labour. Some of the initiatives include the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act which is a piece of legislation that prohibits the engagement of children in certain employment (mostly in dangerous conditions) and regulates the conditions of work of children; the National Policy on Child Labour seeks to adopt a sequential approach with focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations & processes in the first instance; and the Ministry of Labour and employment functions to provide and supervise a range of policies concerning child labor in India. Furthermore, as reported by Osment, NGOs such as Care India, Child Rights and You, Global March against Child Labour have been implemented to combat child labour through education and accessibility to resources. However, these efforts have been largely unsuccessful.
Many NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, ChildFund, CARE India, Talaash Association, Child Rights and You, Global march against child labour, RIDE India, Childline etc. have been working to eradicate child labour in India.
Child labour has also been a subject of public interest litigations in Indian courts.
Demography of child labour
In India, millions of children are forced into child labor due to poverty, high illiteracy rates due to lack of education, unemployment, overpopulation, etc.
As reported by Save the Children, children between the ages of 14–17 years engage in hazardous work and account for 62.8% of India’s child labour workforce in which more boys than girls (38.7 million vs. 8.8 million) are forced into doing more hazardous work. Child labour used to be most ubiquitous in rural India in which 80% of working children found work. Recently, however, child labor has relocated from rural areas to urbanized areas where the big cities are located. Larger cities provide more opportunity for work compared to smaller, rural areas. As reported by UNICEF, there has been a 54% increase in child labor in urbanized areas for children between the ages of 5-14. In addition, according to a Campaign Against Child Labour study, India has approximately 1,26,66,377 child laborers total. Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, has 19,27,997 child labourers. Dehli, the capital of India, has over 1 million child labourers. Other leading states with similar figures include Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
According to 2005 Government of India NSSO (National Sample Survey Org.), child labour incidence rates in India is highest among Muslim Indians, about 40% higher than Hindu Indians. Child labour was found to be present in other minority religions of India but at significantly lower rates. Across caste classification, the lowest caste Dalit children had child labour incidence rates of 2.8%, statistically similar to the nationwide average of 2.74%. Tribal populations, however, had higher child labour rates at 3.8%. India has the highest number of children stunted because of malnutrition (48.2 million) equivalent to Colombia's population, according to Save the Children's 'Stolen Childhoods' report.31 million of children are part of India's workforce, the highest in the world.
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Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organisations. Legislation across the world prohibit child labour. These laws do not consider all work by children as child labour; exceptions include work by child artists, family duties, supervised training, certain categories of work such as those by Amish children, some forms of child work common among indigenous American children, and others.
Child labour has existed to varying extents, through most of history. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, many children aged 5–14 from poorer families still worked in Europe, the United States and various colonies of European powers. These children mainly worked in agriculture, home-based assembly operations, factories, mining and in services such as news boys. Some worked night shifts lasting 12 hours. With the rise of household income, availability of schools and passage of child labour laws, the incidence rates of child labour fell.
In developing countries, with high poverty and poor schooling opportunities, child labour is still prevalent. In 2010, sub-saharan Africa had the highest incidence rates of child labour, with several African nations witnessing over 50 percent of children aged 5–14 working. Worldwide agriculture is the largest employer of child labour. Vast majority of child labour is found in rural settings and informal urban economy; children are predominantly employed by their parents, rather than factories. Poverty and lack of schools are considered as the primary cause of child labour.
Globally the incidence of child labour decreased from 25% to 10% between 1960 and 2003, according to the World Bank. Nevertheless, the total number of child labourers remains high, with UNICEF and ILO acknowledging an estimated 168 million children aged 5–17 worldwide, were involved in child labour in 2013.
Child labour in preindustrial societies
Child labour forms an intrinsic part of pre-industrial economies. In pre-industrial societies, there is rarely a concept of childhood in the modern sense. Children often begin to actively participate in activities such as child rearing, hunting and farming as soon as they are competent. In many societies, children as young as 13 are seen as adults and engage in the same activities as adults.
The work of children was important in pre-industrial societies, as children needed to provide their labour for their survival and that of their group. Pre-industrial societies were characterised by low productivity and short life expectancy, preventing children from participating in productive work would be more harmful to their welfare and that of their group in the long run. In pre-industrial societies, there was little need for children to attend school. This is especially the case in non literate societies. Most pre-industrial skill and knowledge were amenable to being passed down through direct mentoring or apprenticing by competent adults.
The Industrial Revolution
With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain in the late 18th century, there was a rapid increase in the industrial exploitation of labour, including child labour. Industrial cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool rapidly grew from small villages into large cities and improving child mortality rates. These cities drew in the population that was rapidly growing due to increased agricultural output. This process was replicated in other industrialising counties.
The Victorian era in particular became notorious for the conditions under which children were employed. Children as young as four were employed in production factories and mines working long hours in dangerous, often fatal, working conditions. In coal mines, children would crawl through tunnels too narrow and low for adults. Children also worked as errand boys, crossing sweepers, shoe blacks, or selling matches, flowers and other cheap goods. Some children undertook work as apprentices to respectable trades, such as building or as domestic servants (there were over 120,000 domestic servants in London in the mid-18th century). Working hours were long: builders worked 64 hours a week in summer and 52 in winter, while domestic servants worked 80-hour weeks.
Child labour played an important role in the Industrial Revolution from its outset, often brought about by economic hardship. The children of the poor were expected to contribute to their family income. In 19th-century Great Britain, one-third of poor families were without a breadwinner, as a result of death or abandonment, obliging many children to work from a young age. In England and Scotland in 1788, two-thirds of the workers in 143 water-powered cotton mills were described as children. A high number of children also worked as prostitutes. The author Charles Dickens worked at the age of 12 in a blacking factory, with his family in debtor's prison.
Child wages were often low; as little as 10–20% of an adult male's wage.Karl Marx was an outspoken opponent of child labour, saying British industries, "could but live by sucking blood, and children’s blood too," and that U.S. capital was financed by the "capitalized blood of children".
Throughout the second half of the 19th century, child labour began to decline in industrialised societies due to regulation and economic factors because of the Growth of Trade Unions . The regulation of child labour began from the earliest days of the Industrial revolution. The first act to regulate child labour in Britain was passed in 1803. As early as 1802 and 1819 Factory Acts were passed to regulate the working hours of workhouse children in factories and cotton mills to 12 hours per day. These acts were largely ineffective and after radical agitation, by for example the "Short Time Committees" in 1831, a Royal Commission recommended in 1833 that children aged 11–18 should work a maximum of 12 hours per day, children aged 9–11 a maximum of eight hours, and children under the age of nine were no longer permitted to work. This act however only applied to the textile industry, and further agitation led to another act in 1847 limiting both adults and children to 10-hour working days. Lord Shaftesbury was an outspoken advocate of regulating child labour.
As technology improved and proliferated, there was a greater need for educated employees. This saw an increase in schooling, with the eventual introduction of compulsory schooling. Improved technology and automation also made child labour redundant.
Early 20th century
In the early 20th century, thousands of boys were employed in glass making industries. Glass making was a dangerous and tough job especially without the current technologies. The process of making glass includes intense heat to melt glass (3133 °F). When the boys are at work, they are exposed to this heat. This could cause eye trouble, lung ailments, heat exhaustion, cut, and burns. Since workers were paid by the piece, they had to work productively for hours without a break. Since furnaces had to be constantly burning, there were night shifts from 5:00 pm to 3:00 am. Many factory owners preferred boys under 16 years of age.
An estimated 1.7 million children under the age of fifteen were employed in American industry by 1900.
In 1910, over 2 million children in the same age group were employed in the United States. This included children who rolled cigarettes, engaged in factory work, worked as bobbin doffers in textile mills, worked in coal mines and were employed in canneries.Lewis Hine's photographs of child labourers in the 1910s powerfully evoked the plight of working children in the American south. Hine took these photographs between 1908 and 1917 as the staff photographer for the National Child Labor Committee.
Factories and mines were not the only places where child labour was prevalent in the early 20th century. Home-based manufacturing across the United States and Europe employed children as well. Governments and reformers argued that labour in factories must be regulated and the state had an obligation to provide welfare for poor. Legislation that followed had the effect of moving work out of factories into urban homes. Families and women, in particular, preferred it because it allowed them to generate income while taking care of household duties.
Home-based manufacturing operations were active year-round. Families willingly deployed their children in these income generating home enterprises. In many cases, men worked from home. In France, over 58 percent of garment workers operated out of their homes; in Germany, the number of full-time home operations nearly doubled between 1882 and 1907; and in the United States, millions of families operated out of home seven days a week, year round to produce garments, shoes, artificial flowers, feathers, match boxes, toys, umbrellas and other products. Children aged 5–14 worked alongside the parents. Home-based operations and child labour in Australia, Britain, Austria and other parts of the world was common. Rural areas similarly saw families deploying their children in agriculture. In 1946, Frieda S. Miller - then Director of United States Department of Labour - told the International Labour Organisation that these home-based operations offered, "low wages, long hours, child labour, unhealthy and insanitary working conditions."
|Census Year|| % Boys aged 10–14|
as child labour
|Note: These are averages; child labour in|
Lancashire was 80%
|Source: Census of England and Wales|
See also: Children's rights
Child labour is still common in many parts of the world. Estimates for child labour vary. It ranges between 250 and 304 million, if children aged 5–17 involved in any economic activity are counted. If light occasional work is excluded, ILO estimates there were 153 million child labourers aged 5–14 worldwide in 2008. This is about 20 million less than ILO estimate for child labourers in 2004. Some 60 percent of the child labour was involved in agricultural activities such as farming, dairy, fisheries and forestry. Another 25 percent of child labourers were in service activities such as retail, hawking goods, restaurants, load and transfer of goods, storage, picking and recycling trash, polishing shoes, domestic help, and other services. The remaining 15 percent laboured in assembly and manufacturing in informal economy, home-based enterprises, factories, mines, packaging salt, operating machinery, and such operations. Two out of three child workers work alongside their parents, in unpaid family work situations. Some children work as guides for tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops and restaurants. Child labour predominantly occurs in the rural areas (70%) and informal urban sector (26%).
Contrary to popular beliefs, most child labourers are employed by their parents rather than in manufacturing or formal economy. Children who work for pay or in-kind compensation are usually found in rural settings, then urban centres. Less than 3 percent of child labour aged 5–14 across the world work outside their household, or away from their parents.
Child labour accounts for 22% of the workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, 17% in Latin America, 1% in the US, Canada, Europe and other wealthy nations. The proportion of child labourers varies greatly among countries and even regions inside those countries. Africa has the highest percentage of children aged 5–17 employed as child labour, and a total of over 65 million. Asia, with its larger population, has the largest number of children employed as child labour at about 114 million. Latin America and Caribbean region have lower overall population density, but at 14 million child labourers has high incidence rates too.
Accurate present day child labour information is difficult to obtain because of disagreements between data sources as to what constitutes child labour. In some countries, government policy contributes to this difficulty. For example, the overall extent of child labour in China is unclear due to the government categorizing child labour data as “highly secret”. China has enacted regulations to prevent child labour; still, the practice of child labour is reported to be a persistent problem within China, generally in agriculture and low-skill service sectors as well as small workshops and manufacturing enterprises.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor where China was attributed 12 goods the majority of which were produced by both underage children and indentured labourers. The report listed electronics, garments, toys and coal among other goods.
Maplecroft Child Labour Index 2012 survey reports 76 countries pose extreme child labour complicity risks for companies operating worldwide. The ten highest risk countries in 2012, ranked in decreasing order, were: Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Burundi, Pakistan and Ethiopia. Of the major growth economies, Maplecroft ranked Philippines 25th riskiest, India 27th, China 36th, Viet Nam 37th, Indonesia 46th, and Brazil 54th - all of them rated to involve extreme risks of child labour uncertainties, to corporations seeking to invest in developing world and import products from emerging markets.
Causes of child labour
International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests poverty is the greatest single cause behind child labour. For impoverished households, income from a child's work is usually crucial for his or her own survival or for that of the household. Income from working children, even if small, may be between 25 and 40% of the household income. Other scholars such as Harsch on African child labour, and Edmonds and Pavcnik on global child labour have reached the same conclusion.
Lack of meaningful alternatives, such as affordable schools and quality education, according to ILO, is another major factor driving children to harmful labour. Children work because they have nothing better to do. Many communities, particularly rural areas where between 60–70% of child labour is prevalent, do not possess adequate school facilities. Even when schools are sometimes available, they are too far away, difficult to reach, unaffordable or the quality of education is so poor that parents wonder if going to school is really worth it.
In European history when child labour was common, as well as in contemporary child labour of modern world, certain cultural beliefs have rationalised child labour and thereby encouraged it. Some view that work is good for the character-building and skill development of children. In many cultures, particular where the informal economy and small household businesses thrive, the cultural tradition is that children follow in their parents' footsteps; child labour then is a means to learn and practice that trade from a very early age. Similarly, in many cultures the education of girls is less valued or girls are simply not expected to need formal schooling, and these girls pushed into child labour such as providing domestic services.
Biggeri and Mehrotra have studied the macroeconomic factors that encourage child labour. They focus their study on five Asian nations including India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. They suggest that child labour is a serious problem in all five, but it is not a new problem. Macroeconomic causes encouraged widespread child labour across the world, over most of human history. They suggest that the causes for child labour include both the demand and the supply side. While poverty and unavailability of good schools explain the child labour supply side, they suggest that the growth of low-paying informal economy rather than higher paying formal economy is amongst the causes of the demand side. Other scholars too suggest that inflexible labour market, sise of informal economy, inability of industries to scale up and lack of modern manufacturing technologies are major macroeconomic factors affecting demand and acceptability of child labour.
Child labour by country
Systematic use of child labour was common place in the colonies of European powers between 1650 and 1950. In Africa, colonial administrators encouraged traditional kin-ordered modes of production, that is hiring a household for work not just the adults. Millions of children worked in colonial agricultural plantations, mines and domestic service industries. Sophisticated schemes were promulgated where children in these colonies between the ages of 5–14 were hired as an apprentice without pay in exchange for learning a craft. A system of Pauper Apprenticeship came into practice in the 19th century where the colonial master neither needed the native parents' nor child's approval to assign a child to labour, away from parents, at a distant farm owned by a different colonial master. Other schemes included 'earn-and-learn' programs where children would work and thereby learn. Britain for example passed a law, the so-called Masters and Servants Act of 1899, followed by Tax and Pass Law, to encourage child labour in colonies particularly in Africa. These laws offered the native people the legal ownership to some of the native land in exchange for making labour of wife and children available to colonial government's needs such as in farms and as picannins.
Beyond laws, new taxes were imposed on colonies. One of these taxes was the Head Tax in the British and French colonial empires. The tax was imposed on everyone older than 8 years, in some colonies. To pay these taxes and cover living expenses, children in colonial households had to work.
In southeast Asian colonies, such as Hong Kong, child labour such as the Mui Tsai (妹仔), was rationalised as a cultural tradition and ignored by British authorities. The Dutch East India Company officials rationalised their child labour abuses with, "it is a way to save these children from a worse fate." Christian mission schools in regions stretching from Zambia to Nigeria too required work from children, and in exchange provided religious education, not secular education. Elsewhere, the Canadian Dominion Statutes in form of so-called Breaches of Contract Act, stipulated jail terms for uncooperative child workers.
Proposals to regulate child labour began as early as 1786.
Main article: Child labour in Africa
Children working at a young age has been a consistent theme throughout Africa. Many children began first working in the home to help their parents run the family farm. Children in Africa today are often forced into exploitative labour due to family debt and other financial factors, leading to ongoing poverty. Other types of domestic child labour include working in commercial plantations, begging, and other sales such as boot shining. In total, there is an estimated five million children who are currently working in the field of agriculture which steadily increases during the time of harvest. Along with 30 percent of children who are picking coffee, there are an estimated 25,000 school age children who work year round.
What industries children work in depends on if they grew up in a rural area or an urban area. Children who were born in urban areas often found themselves working for street vendors, washing cars, helping in construction sites, weaving clothing, and sometimes even working as exotic dancers. While children who grew up in rural areas would work on farms doing physical labour, working with animals, and selling crops. Of all the child workers, the most serious cases involved street children and trafficked children due to the physical and emotional abuse they endured by their employers. To address the issue of child labour, the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child Act was implemented in 1959. Yet due to poverty, lack of education and ignorance, the legal actions were not/are not wholly enforced or accepted in Africa.
Other legal factors that have been implemented to end and reduce child labour includes the global response that came into force in 1979 by the declaration of the International Year of the Child. Along with the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, these two declarations worked on many levels to eliminate child labour. Although many actions have been taken to end this epidemic, child labour in Africa is still an issue today due to the unclear definition of adolescence and how much time is needed for children to engage in activities that are crucial for their development. Another issue that often comes into play is the link between what constitutes as child labour within the household due to the cultural acceptance of children helping run the family business. In the end, there is a consistent challenge for the national government to strengthen its grip politically on child labour, and to increase education and awareness on the issue of children working below the legal age limit. With children playing an important role in the African economy, child labour still plays an important role for many in the 20th century.
From European settlement in 1788, child convicts were occasionally sent to Australia where they were made to work. Child labour was not as excessive in Australia as in Britain. With a low population, agricultural productivity was higher and families did not face starvation as in established industrialised countries. Australia also did not have significant industry until the later part of the 20th century when child labour laws, and compulsory schooling had developed under the influence of Britain. From the 1870s Child labour was restricted by compulsory schooling.
Child labour laws in Australia differ from state to state. Generally, children are allowed to work at any age, but restrictions exist for children under 15 years of age. These restrictions apply to work hours and the type of work that children can perform. In all states, children are obliged to attend school until a minimum leaving age, 15 years of age in all states except Tasmania and Queensland where the leaving age is 17.
Child labour has been a consistent struggle for children in Brazil ever since the country was colonised on April 22, 1500 by Pedro Álvares Cabral. Work that many children took part in was not always visible, legal, or paid. Free or slave labour was a common occurrence for many youths and was a part of their everyday lives as they grew into adulthood. Yet due to there being no clear definition of how to classify what a child or youth is, there has been little historical documentation of child labour during the colonial period. Due to this lack of documentation, it is hard to determine just how many children were used for what kinds of work before the nineteenth century. The first documentation of child labour in Brazil occurred during the time of indigenous societies and slave labour where it was found that children were forcibly working on tasks that exceeded their emotional and physical limits. Armando Dias, for example, died in November 1913 whilst still very young, a victim of an electric shock when entering the textile industry where he worked. Boys and girls were victims of industrial accidents on a daily basis.
In Brazil, the minimum working age has been identified as fourteen due to continuous constitutional amendments that occurred in 1934, 1937, and 1946. Yet due to a change in the dictatorship by the military in the 80’s, the minimum age restriction was reduced to the age of twelve but was reviewed due to reports of dangerous and hazardous working conditions in 1988. This led to the minimum age being raised once again to 14. Another set of restrictions was passed in 1998 that restricted the kinds of work youth could partake in, such as work that was considered hazardous like running construction equipment, or certain kinds of factory work. Although many steps were taken to reduce the risk and occurrence of child labour, there is still a high number of children and adolescents working under the age of fourteen in Brazil. It was not until recently in the 80’s that it was discovered that almost nine million children in Brazil were working illegally and not partaking in traditional childhood activities that help to develop important life experiences.
Brazilian census data (PNAD, 1999) indicate that 2.55 million 10-14 year-olds were illegally holding jobs. They were joined by 3.7 million 15-17 year-olds and about 375,000 5-9 year-olds. Due to the raised age restriction of 14, at least half of the recorded young workers had been employed illegally which lead to many not being protect by important labour laws. Although substantial time has passed since the time of regulated child labour, there is still a large number of children working illegally in Brazil. Many children are used by drug cartels to sell and carry drugs, guns, and other illegal substances because of their perception of innocence. This type of work that youth are taking part in is very dangerous due to the physical and psychological implications that come with these jobs. Yet despite the hazards that come with working with drug dealers, there has been an increase in this area of employment throughout the country.
Many factors played a role in Britain’s long-term economic growth, such as the industrial revolution in the late 1700s and the prominent presence of child labour during the industrial age. Children who worked at an early age were often not forced; but did so because they needed to help their family survive financially. Due to poor employment opportunities for many parents, sending their children to work on farms and in factories was a way to help feed and support the family. Child Labour first started to occur in England when household businesses were turned into local labour markets that mass-produced the once homemade goods. Because children often helped produce the goods out of their homes, working in a factory to make those same goods was a simple change for many of these youths. Although there are many counts of children under the age of ten working for factories, the majority of children workers were between the ages of ten and fourteen. This age range was an important time for many youths as they were first helping to provide for their families; while also transitioning to save for their own future families.
Besides the obligation, many children had to help support their families financially; another factor that influenced child labour was the demographic changes that occurred in the eighteenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century, 20 percent of the population was made up of children between the ages of 5 and 14. Due to this substantial shift in available workers, and the development of the industrial revolution, children began to work earlier in life in companies outside of the home. Yet, even though there was an increase of child labour in factories such as cotton textiles, there consistently was large numbers of children working in the field of agriculture and domestic production.
With such a high percentage of children working, the rising of illiteracy, and the lack of a formal education became a widespread issue for many children who worked to provide for their families. Due to this problematic trend, many parents developed a change of opinion when deciding whether or not to send their children to work. Other factors that lead to the decline of child labour included financial changes in the economy, changes in the development of technology, raised wages, and continuous regulations on factory legislation.
The first legal steps taken to end the occurrence of child labour was enacted more than fifty years ago. In 1966, the nation adopted the UN General Assembly of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This act legally limited the minimum age for when children could start work at the age of 14. But 23 years later in 1989 the Convention on the Rights of Children was adopted and helped to reduce the exploitation of children and demanded safe working environments. They all worked towards the goal of ending the most problematic forms of child labour.
An Ecuadorean study published in 2006 found child labour to be one of the main environmental problems affecting children's health. It reported that over 800,000 children are working in Ecuador, where they are exposed to heavy metals and toxic chemicals and are subject to mental and physical stress and the insecurity caused by being at risk of work-related accidents. Minors performing agricultural work along with their parents help apply pesticides without wearing protective equipment.
Main article: Child labour in India
In 2015, the country of India is home to the largest number of children who are working illegally in various industrial industries. Agriculture in India is the largest sector where many children work at early ages to help support their family. Many of these children are forced to work at young ages due to many family factors such as unemployment, a large number of family members, poverty, and lack of parental education. This is often the major cause of the high rate of child labour in India.
On 23 June 1757, the English East India Company defeated Siraj-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Bengal, in the Battle of Plassey. The British thus became masters of east India (Bengal, Bihar, Orissa) – a prosperous region with a flourishing agriculture, industry and trade. This led to a large number of children being forced into labour due to the increasing need of cheap labour to produce large numbers of goods. Many multinationals often employed children because that they can be recruited for less pay, and have more endurance to utilise in factory environments. Another reason many Indian children were hired was because they lack knowledge of their basic rights, they did not cause trouble or complain, and they were often more trustworthy. The innocence that comes with childhood was utilised to make a profit by many and was encouraged by the need for family income.
A variety of Indian social scientists as well as the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have done extensive research on the numeric figures of child labour found in India and determined that India contributes to one-third of Asia’s child labour and one-fourth of the world's child labour. Due to a large number of children being illegally employed, the Indian government began to take extensive actions to reduce the number of children working, and to focus on the importance of facilitating the proper growth and development of children. International influences help to encourage legal actions to be taken in India, such as the Geneva Declaration of the Right of Children Act was passed in 1924. This act was followed by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 to which incorporated the basic human rights and needs of children for proper progression and growth in their younger years. These international acts encouraged major changes to the workforce in India which occurred in 1986 when the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was put into place. This act prohibited hiring children younger than the age of 14, and from working in hazardous conditions.
Due to the increase of regulations and legal restrictions on child labour, there has been a 64 percent decline in child labour from 1993-2005. Although this is a great decrease in the country of India, there is still high numbers of children working in the rural areas of India. With 85 percent of the child labour occurring in rural areas, and 15 percent occurring in urban areas, there are still substantial areas of concern in the country of India.
India has legislation since 1986 which allows work by children in non-hazardous industry. In 2013, the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave a landmark order that directed that there shall be a total ban on the employment of children up to the age of 14 years, be it hazardous or non-hazardous industries. However, the Court ruled that a child can work with his or her family in family based trades/occupations, for the purpose of learning a new trade/craftsmanship or vocation.
In post-colonial Ireland, the rate of child exploitation was extremely high as children were used as farm labourers once they were able to walk, these children were never paid for the labour that they carried out on the family farm. Children were wanted and desired in Ireland for the use of their labour on the family farm. Irish parents felt that it was the children's duty to carry out chores on the family farm 
Though banned in modern Japan, shonenko (child labourers) were a feature of the Imperial era until its end in 1945. During World War 2 labour recruiting efforts targeted youths from Taiwan (Formosa), then a Japanese territory, with promises of educational opportunity. Though the target of 25,000 recruits was never reached, over 8,400 Taiwanese youths aged 12 to 14 relocated to Japan to help manufacture the Mitsubishi J2M Raiden aircraft.
Child labour existed in the Netherlands up to and through the Industrial Revolution. Laws governing child labour in factories were first passed in 1874, but child labour on farms continued to be the norm up until the 20th century.
Soviet Union and Russia
Although formally banned since 1922, child labour was widespread in the Soviet Union, mostly in the form of mandatory, unpaid work
A succession of laws on child labour, the so-called Factory Acts, were passed in the UK in the 19th century. Children younger than nine were not allowed to work, those aged 9–16 could work 16 hours per day per Cotton Mills Act. In 1856, the law permitted child labour past age 9, for 60 hours per week, night or day. In 1901, the permissible child labour age was raised to 12.