child labour

imageThis article is written by Vrinda Nigam, a student of Amity Law School, IP University, on laws related to child labour in India.


“Child” as defined by the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is a person who has not completed the age of fourteen years. A child of such tender age, is expected to play, study and be carefree about his life. But as a fact of nature, expectations hardly meet reality. Children, by will or by force are employed to work in the harsh conditions and atmosphere which becomes a threat to their life. Child labour leads to underdevelopment, incomplete mental and physical development, which in turn results in retarded growth of children.



 International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines the term child labour 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 school or experience a healthy childhood.”

UNICEF defines child labour differently. A child, suggests UNICEF, is involved in child labour activities if between 5 to 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 to 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 labor 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 laborers 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.” 


Major causes of child employment that can be understood keeping in mind the Indian scenario, are:


 In developing countries it is impossible to control child labour as children have been considered as helping hand to feed their families, to support their families and to feed themselves. Due to poverty, illiteracy and unemployment parents are unable to bear the burden of feeding their children and to run their families. So, poor parents send their children for work in inhuman conditions at lower wages.


The poor economic conditions of people in india force them to borrow money. The Illiterate populations go to money lenders and sometimes mortgage their belongings in turn of the debt taken by them. But, due to insufficiency of income, debtors find it very difficult to pay back the debt and the interest. This vicious circle of poverty drags them towards working day and night for the creditor and then the debtors drag their children too in assisting them so that the debts could be paid off.


There are some industries such as the ‘bangle making’ industry, where delicate hands and little fingers are needed to do very minute work with extreme excellence and precision. An adult’s hands are usually not so delicate and small, so they require children to work for them and do such a dangerous work with glass. This often resulted in major eye accidents of the children.


When in the 20th Century, child labour became so prominent that news of factory hazards and mishappenings taking innocent children’s life, flashed all around in the newspapers, then was the time, a need for legislations and statutes were felt to prohibit the mal practice of child labour. Today, there are sufficient statutes condemning and prohibiting child labour such as:
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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. Mining being one of the most dangerous occuptions, which in the past has led to many major accidents taking life of children is completely banned for them.

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. This act provides punishment to those who act in contravention to the previous acts by employing children to work.

 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.


Part III of ‘The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 provides for the ‘Prohibition of employment of children in certain occupations and processes’. The Schedule gives a list of hazardous occupations in two parts, via; A and B

Part A provides that, No child shall be employed or permitted to work in any of the following occupations:

  1. Transport of passengers, goods; or mails by railway
  2. Cinder picking, clearing of an ash pit or building operation in the railway premise.
  3. Work in a catering establishment at a railway station, involving the movement of vendor or any other employee of the establishment from one platform to another or into or out of a moving train.
  4. Work relating to the construction of railway station or with any other work where such work is done in close proximity to or between the railway lines.
  5. The port authority within the limits of any port.
  6. Work relating to selling of crackers and fireworks in shops with temporary licenses
  7. Abattoirs/slaughter Houses
  8. Automobile workshops and garages.
  9. Foundries
  10. Handling of taxies or inflammable substance or explosives
  11. Handloom and power loom industry
  12. Mines (Underground and under water) and collieries
  13. Plastic units and Fiber glass workshop

Part B provides that, No child shall be employed or permitted to work in any of the following workshop wherein any of the following processes is carried on.

1 Beedi making

2 Carpet Weaving

3 Cement manufacture including bagging of cement.

4 Cloth printing, dyeing and weaving.

5 Manufacture of matches, explosive and fireworks.

6 Mica cutting and splitting.

7 Shellac manufacture

8 Soap manufacture

9 Tanning.

10 Wool cleaning

11 Building and construction industry

12 Manufacture of slate pencils (including packing)

13 Manufacture of products of agate

14 Manufacturing processes using toxic metals and substances such as lead, mercury, manganese, chromium, cadmium, benzene, pesticides and asbestos

15 All Hazardous prossess an defined in section 2(cb) and dangerous operations

as notified in ruler made under section 87 of the factories Act 1948

16 Printing (as defined in section 2(k) of the factories Act 1948

17 Cashew and cashew nut descaling and processing

18 Soldering process in electronic industries

19 Incense Stick (Agarbathi) manufacturing

20 Automobile repairs and maintenance (namely welding lather work , dent beating and printing)

21 Brick kilns and Roof files units

22 Cotton ginning and processing and production of hosiery goods

23 Detergent manufacturing

24 Fabrication workshop (ferrous and non-ferrous)

25 Gem cutting and polishing

26 Handling of chromites and manganies ores

27 Jute textile manufacture and of coir making

28 Lime kilns and manufacture of lime

29 Lock making

30 Manufacturing process having exposure to lead such as primary and secondary smelting, welding etc. ( See item 30 of part B process)

31 Manufacture of glass, glass ware including bangles fluorescent tubes bulbs and other similar glass products

32 Manufacturing of cement pipes, cement products, and other related work.

33 Manufacture of dyes and dye stuff

34 Manufacturing or handling of pesticides and insecticides

35 Manufacturing or processing and handling of corrosive and toxic substances, metal cleaning and photo enlarging and soldering processes in electronic industry

36 Manufacturing of burning coal and coal briquette

37 Manufacturing of sports goods involving to synthetic materials, chemicals and leather

38 Moulding and processing of fiberglass and plastics

39 Oil expelling and refinery

40 Paper making

41 Potteries and ceramic industry

42 Polishing, moulding, cutting welding and manufacture of brass goods in all forms.

43 Process in agriculture where tractors, threshing and harvesting machines are used and chabt cutting

44 Saw mill all process

45 Sericulture processing

46 Skinning dyeing and process for manufacturing of leather and leather products

47 Stone breaking and stone crushing

48 Tobacco processing including manufacturing of tobacco, tobacco paste and handling of tobacco in any form

49 Tyre making repairing, re-trading and graphite beneficiation

50 Utensils making polishing and metal buffing

51 Zari Making (all process)


No child shall be required or permitted to work in any establishment in excess of number of hours prescribed (Section-7)

The period of work on each day shall not exceed three hours and no child shall work for more than three hours before he has had an interval for rest for at least one hour. No child shall be permitted or required to work between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.

No child shall be required or permitted to work overtime. (Section-7).


Violations under Section-3 shall be punishable with imprisonment which shall not be less than three months which may extend to one year or with fine which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees but which may extend to twenty thousand rupees or with both. Continuing offence under section (3) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years.

Any other violations under the Act shall be punishable with simple imprisonment, which may extend to one month or with fine, which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.


The child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in 16 occupation and 65 processes that are hazardous to the children’s lives and health. Many states including Haryana have constituted the child labour rehabilitation –cum-welfare funds at district level and separate labour cells are being formed to address the issue. National child labour projects have been implemented by the central government in states from 1988 to provide non-formal education and pre-vocational skills. From 2001, Sarve shiksha Abhiyan has been launched to educate poor and employed children in all states. Ministry of women and child development has been providing non-formal education and vocational training. Establishment of Anganwadies is also a big step by the government for the welfare of children and their physical, mental and educational development.


If awareness about the cons of child labour is spread across the nation and strict policing of implementation of existing laws are done, India can combat the issue of Child Labour. Every individual must understand how important it is for the children to grow and study, as they are the ones who will shape the future of the nation.


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  1. . If there had been no labour, we would have lived in desert, but in our country we most of people are in habit of hating labour. We consider it menial work. We feel shame in doing work with our own hands.

    In advanced countries people do not feel shame in doing work with their own hands, it is why they are on the road of prosperity and progress. In Europe and America mostly all the members of each family work in offices and factories even the women do so. Due to that reason all male and female individuals work for themselves.

  2. A nation cannot prosper materially if the people are not laborious. Labor is at the source of the power of nation. A nation that cannot work hard, nation that does not respect the dignity of manual labour lags behind the progressive nations. After the industrial revolution the people of Europe learnt to work with tools and machines. They manufactured many things and increased the wealth of the country. The material prosperity of a country depends on the progress of its agriculture, industry and trade. Ordinary laborers work in the fields, mines, mills and factories. Their labour leads to the prosperity and power of the country. Thus work is power. For this reason manual labour should be respected and given importance.

  3. I’m a 17 year old teenager and I want to do a part time job out of personal interest but I cant find a proper one no appropriate franchise would hire me (e.g. mcdonalds, merwans) not only a franchise but even a local cake shop wont take me in because of my age saying that the police would arrest him if he hired me and then I realized this is the reason children have to do hazardous and unfit jobs rather then proper ones so shouldn’t something be done about this???


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