Discussion on Child Labour
This implies getting a child less than 14 years of age to work, especially by paying him or her a pittance. On October 14, '99, the Government passed a one-line notification under Article 309, which reads: "No Government servant shall employ to work any child below the age of 14 years." The notification was passed one month before Children's Day, observed on 14th November to mark the birthday of the nation's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), child labour for domestic purposes has been defined as an inhuman practice. But the fact is that Indians today employ not less than 50 million under-13 children as child labour and more than 28 percent of them work as domestic help.
As an integral part of the family, children have always worked and will continue to work for various reasons as they do currently in most developing countries. However, the situation in developing countries needs special attention. A holistic analysis of contemporary society and the choices before children and their families need to be examined. Policy planners are of the opinion that the single biggest factor for child labour is poverty. Though children are not paid well, they continue to contribute to family income. More often than not, they are prompted to work by the parents. Lack of schooling opportunities is another contributing factor. But the reasons are also social and cultural. Many children work because it is an accepted norm. Acceptance of such traditional factors such as expecting the lower classes or castes to perform manual functions leads the children of these castes into manual work at an early age. Rapid migration to urban areas has further aggravated the situation. However, much of the child labour today exists in the illegal sector.
The complete eradication of child labour is a noble goal. The issue in question is both a matter of public concern and the larger public good. It must be amply clear to all that child labour cannot be wished away by fiats and diktats. In Bangladesh, for instance, the boycott of garments made by child labour caused 50,000 children to lose their jobs. These children then even took up lower- paying jobs in other industries, or more demeaning jobs, some even being pushed into prostitution or ending up as juvenile delinquents. Most children who do not work then become victims of other bigger social evils, creating a lot of social disturbance and menace.
At the dawn of the industrial revolution, over 95 percent children worked. In less than 200 years, today's developed countries broke away from thousand of years of human misery and made child labour redundant through substantial gains in productivity and income. No society can develop or prosper without investing in their children by imparting quality education and skills, so that rather than contributing labour these children go on to become much more productive adults. Most developing countries, including India, pursued policies that prolonged the agony of their children, rather than learning from the experiences of others.
The need is to create a situation whereby children of developing countries will no longer have to work, where it will be more worthwhile for them to attend school, where the income of parents will be sufficient to provide for their children. We need radical reforms to help create the environment for such economic growth.