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What is Child Labour?

General Knowledge | 7-14 yrs | Animation, Reading Pod, Learning Pod

Child Labour : Definition

Child labour can be defined as the employment of children in any form of work which deprives them of their childhood and cause a hindrance in their ability to attend educational institutions, also that is mentally, socially, morally and physically harmful and dangerous to them. This kind of involvement of children is considered ill treatment of children rights by many international organizations and is prohibited. But all work by children is not considered as child labour as there are exceptions like child artist, supervised training and work categorized under Amish Children and Indigenous American children and others.

History of Child Labour :

Child labour has been witnessed to different extents of history. Before 1940, a countless number of children between the age of 5 to 14 worked in agriculture, factories and mining throughout Europe, the United States and colonies across the European settlements. But with the rise of income child labour fell. The different periods during which child labour was witnessed are listed below:

Industrial Revolution (1760-1840)

During this era, children were engaged in factories under hazardous conditions harmful to their health with minimum wages not enough to support them. Based on these historical occurrences now working under conditions like that are against human rights.

Victorian Era (1837-1901)

At this time children had to work night shift for 12 hours as chimney sweeps where they had to clean the chimneys of factories and mines. This shorten the lifespan of children because they would inhale intoxicated fumes from those chimneys.

Early 20th Century

At the start of the 20th century numerous children were made to work in glass industries. Glass making was a very tedious and dangerous job during that time as the technology was not as developed as it is now. This resulted in children having their vision impaired. During this time home based labour was also prevalent and children were used at homes as hired help but the conditions were much better than the factories and mines.

Cause of Child Labour :

The main cause of child labour as suggested by the International Labour Organization (ILO) is poverty.
Poverty drives children into earning for themselves and their family. The other pointed out causes are:-

1. Cultural causes

In European history child labour was common and since it was rationalized they encouraged it. Their point was that it helped in character building and skill.

2. Macroeconomic causes

According to statistics provided by economist Macroeconomics is one of the major causes of child labour in Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. Its tells us that the demand and supply is met that is why it prevails in these countries.

3. Child Labour in India

India sadly is home to the largest number of child labourers in the world. Surveys and census have seen an increase in the number from 11.28 million in 1991 to 12.59 million in 2001. The increasing gap between the rich and the poor has also had a very great impact on this. Privatization of all basic needs and services and neo-liberal economic policies are the major causes of the people being unemployed and deprived of basic needs. These effect children the most than any other sectors and groups. The involvement of multi-national corporations has also lead to the use of child labour as they are not held accountable for it.

Child Labour Laws :

  • Due to the increasing child labour and no form of justice being offered to them, Organizations have set up laws and acts to prohibit child labour and involvement of children in harmful activities against their will.
  • 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 Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986: The Act prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous occupations identified in a list by the law. The list was expanded in 2006, and again in 2008.
  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2000: This law made it a crime, punishable with a prison term, for anyone to procure or employ a child in any hazardous employment or in bondage.
  • 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.
  • Even with these laws and acts controlling or removing child labour is still a challenge to organizations around the world.
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