Introduction: A child should not be subjected to work at the expense of his or her education and dreams. Child labour robs minors of the opportunity to enjoy their childhood, go to school, and have a decent shot at success.
It condemns them to a life of limited opportunities. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that every child is protected and not exploited for cheap labour.
It is not just the responsibility of the parents to eliminate child labour but also that of the government and the society. In India, the total number of child labourers, aged between 5 and 14, is estimated to be at 10.1 million. (source: wikipedia)
Child labour refers to the use of children as a source of labour while depriving them of their fundamental rights in the process. Such rights include the opportunity to enjoy their childhood, attend school regularly, have peace of mind, and live a dignified life.
Child labour can also refer to the practice of exploiting children for financial gain. Some industries employ children in order to cut down on labour costs since their wage demand is low.
Work that places children in a situation that is socially, mentally, physically, or morally harmful and dangerous is also defined as child labour because it ignores the well-being of such children.
When children are made to perform work that is legally prohibited to be performed by children of a certain age group, such type of work is also referred to as child labour.
According to wikipedia, 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 development.
Child labour is caused by several factors. Some of them include:
1. Poverty: This is the single biggest factor contributing to the children working hard in factories or shops or construction sites rather than playing and getting an education. Families do not have enough resources and children often become the means for more income, even if it means having to forego the privileges of childhood. Children who come from poor families may be forced to work to support their siblings and parents or supplement the household income when expenses are more than the parents’ earnings. It is a huge problem especially in developing countries where parents are unable to generate income due to the lack of employment opportunities or education. Children can be found employed in mines or hawking in the streets to earn money that is used to provide basic necessities such as food and clothing for the family. Children may also be employed in factories to generate income for the family instead of attending school. Some children have left orphans or abandoned due to poverty. Such children do not have anyone to take care of them and end up working to feed themselves unless taken up by orphanages. Such a practice is a common phenomenon in poverty-stricken regions with large factories set up by international companies.
2. Low Aspiration: It is important for parents and children to understand that they can work hard and make something great of themselves. Low aspirations by parents and children is a major cause of child labour because in such a situation, being employed in a local factory, or selling grocery in the streets is the normal way of life. To these types of children and parents, success only belongs to a certain region or group of people. They do not aspire to become professionals in the society or great entrepreneurs. It is a mindset that forms the very foundation of child labour.
3. Huge demand for unskilled labourers: The demand for unskilled labourers is another cause of child labour. Children are mostly unskilled and provide a cheap source of labour, making them an attractive option for many greedy employers. Child labour, by virtue of being cheap, increases the margin of profits for such entrepreneurs whose only objective is profit maximization even if it comes at the expense of ethics and good business practices. These types of employers can also force children to work under unfavorable conditions through manipulation or blatant threats.
4. Illiteracy: A society with many educated people understands the importance of going to school and pursuing dreams. Children have the ability and time to become whatever they aspire to be. Illiteracy, on the other hand, makes it difficult for many people to understand the importance of education. Illiterate people view education as a preserve of the privileged in the society. They will therefore not provide support to children so that they can go to school and build solid foundations for future success. The same view of life is seen among illiterate parents who prioritize children contributing to the upkeep of the family over going to school.
5. Early Marriages: Marrying at an early age is a major contributing factor to overpopulation. Having many children with little or no resources to support them leads to child labour. Older children are forced to work in order to help their parents support the family.
6. High cost of education: Quality education is expensive. To many parents who live in abject poverty, priority is given to providing food for the family because education is too expensive to afford especially when there are many children to pay school fees for. Instead of letting children stay at home because there is lack of money to send them to school, parents opt to have them working as unskilled labourers to help support the family. Some parents can also only afford basic education which means that children will be forced to look for work since they cannot pursue their education further.
7. Gender discrimination: Often girls are required to quit school and take up work to supplement family income until they are suitably married off. This too is an observation in typically vulnerable classes.
8. Family tradition: Many families with businesses or traditional occupations like arts, etc. expect the children to work to be able to pass on the traditional arts or business only by experience.
Consequences / Effects:
Child labour has several negative impacts. Some of them include:
1. Loss of Quality childhood: It is important for human beings to enjoy every stage of their development. A child should play with friends and make memories for a lifetime. Youths should explore life and form strong foundations that would define their adult lives. Child labour, therefore, leads to loss of quality childhood as children will be deprived of the opportunity to enjoy the amazing experiences that come with being young. Children are often encouraged to play because it helps in their growth and development. A child forced to work will miss many of the good things associated with childhood.
2. Health issues: Child labour can also lead to health complications due to undernourishment and poor working conditions. It is highly unlikely that people who employ children also have the moral capacity to ensure that they have good working conditions. Working in places such as mines and badly conditioned factories may result in lifetime health issues for children employed to work in these places. A child assigned physically demanding duties may suffer physical trauma that may scar him or her for life.
3. Mental trauma: It is not a pleasant experience to be kept working as a child while your age-mates are out playing and going to school. Children also lack the ability to shield themselves from most of the challenges that occur in the workplace. Issues such as bullying, sexual exploitation, and unfavorable working hours may result in mental trauma in these children. They will find it hard to forget the past and may become societal misfits because of bad childhood experiences. Child labour may also result in the lack of emotional growth and thus insensitivity.
4. Illiteracy: Children that are employed do not have the time to go to school. They spend a lot of time in their workstations as the days and years go by. The lack of education and illiteracy makes them individuals with limited opportunities as far as employment is concerned. Education also prepares a person for several challenges in the society and without it, one may turn out to lack the basic skills required to overcome many of life’s problems. An individual who has gone to school may be aware of how to approach certain situations in life without resorting to brute force. An illiterate person, on the other hand, considers force to be the only answer to nearly all of the challenges experienced.
How can child labour be reduced or completely eradicated? Every child born has the right to have dreams and pursue those dreams. Even though the realization of some of these aspirations may be limited by several challenges, it is still possible to overcome them and achieve the highest levels of success.
There is need to involve various stakeholders to realize this objective. These are some of the ways in which the problem of child labour can be addressed:
1. Free education: Free education holds the key to eliminating child labour. Parents that do not have money for school fees can use this as an opportunity to provide their children with education. It has already proved to be a success in many places around the globe and with more effort, the cases of child labour will greatly reduce. Mid-day meals schemes can also be used as a motivating factor for children whose parents can barely afford a meal to learn. Even if they will be attending school because of the free meals, they will still be able to learn and create a good education foundation for themselves.
2. Moral Polishing: Child labour should not be entertained at all. It is legally and morally wrong. Children should not be allowed to provide labour at the expense of getting an education and enjoying their childhood. Factory owners, shopkeepers, and industries among others should not employ children. The society should be educated on the negative impacts of child labour so that it becomes an issue that is frowned upon whenever it occurs. This type of moral polishing would act as a deterrent to people who intend to employ children and use them as a source of cheap labour. Many of the ills that go on in the society do so because people turn a blind eye or fail to consider their moral impacts. With this kind of approach, cases of child labour will greatly fall among our communities.
3. Create demand for skilled and trained workers: By creating the demand for skilled and trained workers, child labour cases will reduce since almost all child labourers fall under the unskilled worker category. It will lead to adult employment as the demand for skilled labour rises. Establishing skill-based learning centers, vocational training centers, and technical training institutions improves literacy and contributes to the availability of skilled and trained workers in the job market. Creation of job opportunities by the government is also another way that cases of unemployment can be reduced and household income for the population increased. Such government policies improve living standards and eliminate the need for children to seek work in order to support their families.
4. Awareness: Creating awareness about the illegality of child labour can also help in stemming the practice. Parents should be made aware that sending their children to work has legal ramifications and the law would take its course if they are found to be aiding and abetting this vice. It is the ignorance among many parents and members of the society that makes them participate in child labour practices. Conducting a campaign to create awareness about its harmful effects would eliminate the practice. The government, together with non-governmental organizations and the civil society, can create a strategy to make such an initiative a success.
5. Empowerment of poor people: Poor people are the most affected by child labour. The poor living standards and financial constraints sometimes make them unwilling participants in this vice. Empowering poor people through knowledge and income generating projects would go a long way in reducing cases of child labour. Parental literacy also plays an important role in ensuring that the rights of children are upheld, and minors are not used as a source of labour. Empowering parents with this kind of knowledge can create a positive change in the society and encourage the shunning of child labour practices in communities.
Indian Laws relating to Child Labour
- 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. (source: wikipedia)
- In addition, 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. (source: wikipedia)
- :The Factories Act of 1948 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. (source: wikipedia)
- The The Mines Act of 1952 prohibits the employment of children below 18 years of age in a mine. (source: wikipedia)
Child labour should never exist. However, it is still noticeable that people around the country hire children so that they will have the benefit of paying low wages to them. One should do not encourage child labour, and neither one should let any other to hire a child to any job.
Edited with input from Various Contributors.