UPSC MAINS 2019 : Enforcement of child labour laws lacking

Enforcement of child labour laws lacking

Topic : ‘Enforcement of child labour laws lacking’

Topic in syllabus : 



Enforcement of child labour laws lacking

A top official of the Union Labour and Employment Ministry drew attention to the fact that implementation of the laws at the State and district levels has been lacking which is reflected through the continuing presence of child labour in the country – on World Day Against Child Labour, celebrated on the 12th of June every year.



The continuing presence of child labour in the country is a reflection of the fact that implementation of the laws at the State and district levels has been lacking

  • Though the number of children engaged in labour had come down to 10.1 million, or 1.01 crore, according to the 2011 Census, from 1.26 crore in the 2001 census, there was still a lot to be done to end the scourge.
  • Across India in 2011, 3.9% of children under the age of 14 were engaged in child labour. The proportion was, however, much higher in some states such as Nagaland (13.2 %), Himachal Pradesh (10.3%) and Sikkim (8.5%).
  • Nationally, the percentage of working children fell from 5% in 2001 to 3.9% in 2011 but the bigger change occurred in the nature of employment.
  • India’s children used to almost entirely work on farms, but are now moving to non-farm jobs – especially in the services sector.
  • Between 2001 and 2011, the share of children engaged in non-farm work doubled to 40%.
  • Child labour, though, is not a problem unique to India. According to data from the World Bank, there are 168 million children employed across the world.
  • India contributes 6% of these workers, but in terms of proportion, it has the lowest rates of child labour in South Asia.

Services overtakes manufacturing as the largest non-farm child employer


Measures taken to prevent child labour.

  • The Child Labor (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, the PENCIL [Platform for Effective Enforcement of No Child Labour] portal, SOPs and guidelines have been formed to tackle child labor.
  • India had ratified conventions prescribing minimum age for employment (14 years in developing countries) and employment in hazardous conditions (18 years).
  • The government also seeks to address child labour through the National Child Labour Project which identifies and rehabilitates child workers. In 2017-18, around 50,000 child workers were rescued or rehabilitated from child labour—but it is still a small fraction of the overall child labour force.


About PENCIL Portal:

  • PENCIL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) — an electronic platform for no child labour in the country is being developed by the Labour Ministry.
  • PENCIL portal has five components — Child Tracking System, Complaint Corner, State Government, National Child Labour Project and Convergence.
  • The PENCIL portal, through which 900 complaints about child labour had been lodged since it was started in 2017, was “evolving” with new features planned.


Enforcement of laws lacking:

  • Article 24 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in hazardous industries. Allows their employment in non hazardous industries .
  • Subsequently , government passed Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 which prohibited employment in 14 industries and regulated employment condition in the rest.
  • Article 39(e) directs the state to ensure that health of workers be protected and children not to be exploited.
  • According to UNICEF, child labour in India has merely shifted from factories to employee homes and children are still engaged in harmful industries such as bidi production and fireworks production.
  • This shift to informal home-based sectors makes it harder to detect child labour.
  • Some states like Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal have launched relatively fewer prosecutions despite their larger proportions of child labour.


Way ahead:

  • It is the time to act. At the delivery point, the district and State level, they have a lot to do, district and state level there is a need to strictly implement the laws enforced.
  • Noting that parents, even those from poorer backgrounds, were beginning to want their children to go to school, particularly private schools, the Secretary said this change in mindset needed to be “encashed”.
  • Need to create more employment opportunities, so that parents can afford schooling for their children and not  push them to child labor.
  • Globally, the International Labour Organization and UNICEF recommend a multi-pronged strategy to tackle child employment that involves better enforcement of laws, increasing awareness and strengthening education systems—India will need to do the same.


Sample question:

The continuing presence of child labour in the country is a reflection of the fact that implementation of the laws at the State and district levels has been lacking. Comment.



Enforcement of child labour laws lacking info graph