Child Labour Laws in India

In general terms Child Labour is the practice of having children engage in economic activity, on part- or full-time basis. “Child” as defined by the Child Labour (prohibition and regulation) Act 1986 is a person who has not completed the age of 14 years.

The term ‘child labour’ is best defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. Interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

UNICEF defines child labour as, A child is involved in child labour activities if between 5 and 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 and 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.

According to 2011 Census by UNICEF total no. of children engaged in work in India is around 10.1 Million out of which 4.5 million are girls and 5.6 million are boys. The states in India where child labour is at most are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra. According to the 2001 Census of India out of the total workforce in India 13% is the child labour. Certain acts in India like The Factories Act 1948 and The Mines Act 1952 prohibits the employment of children. But, According to The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act of 2015, anyone who keep a child in bondage for the purpose of employment has committed a crime and is punishable with a prison term.

Nationally, the percentage of working children fell from 5% in 2001 to 3.9% in 2011.

Child Labour Laws in India

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 tailoring, stitching, bidi production, fireworks production . Hence it is difficult to trace child labour easily, as the factories are shifted to home-based work place where it is not easily identifiable.

Sometimes, child labour is a necessity for the person and its family to meet the daily household expenses of the person. According to the UNICEF, poverty in India is the main reason behind Child Labour. As day by day inflation is taking place, to meet the necessary expenses of the family the child is bound to work and parents are also bound to send their child to work and earn a living.

The causes and nature of child labour

The factors that contribute to child labour are poverty and illiteracy of a child’s parents, the family’s and financial circumstances, lack of awareness about the harmful effects of child labour, lack of access to basic and meaningful quality education and skill training, high rates of adult unemployment and under-employment, and the cultural values of the family and surrounding society. Often children are also bonded to labour due to a family indebtedness. Out of school children (OOSC) or those children at risk of dropping out can easily be drawn into work and a more vulnerable to exploitation. Girls, especially those from socially disadvantaged groups, tend to be at a higher risk of being forced into work.

Other reasons for children being forced into work:

  • Poverty and lack of livelihood options lead to a child’s “need” to contribute to the family income,
  • Due to conflicts, droughts and other natural disasters, and family indebtedness,
  • Rural poverty and urban migration also often expose children to being trafficked for work.

Children as labour are cheap in amount of monetary terms. Their daily wage or the monthly salary is cheaper than other employed adult persons. As children are illiterate and less communicative, accepts everything of the employer and are also not aware about the basic rights and amenities they should be provided by the employer. The risks that these children face can have an irreversible physical, psychological and moral impact on their development, health and well being.

Child Labour Laws in India

There is a recent change in type of Child Labour

The types of child labour have changed in recent years due to enforcement of legislation, awareness among buyers about child exploitation, and international pressure. Child labour is now invisible because of change in location of work from factories to business owner’s homes.

Children are engaged in manual work, in domestic work in family homes, in rural labour in the agricultural sector including cotton growing, at glass, match box and brass and lock-making factories, in embroidery, rag-picking, beedi-rolling, in the carpet-making industry, in mining and stone , brick kilns and tea gardens among others.

Work is often gender-specific, with girls performing more domestic and home-based work, while boys are more often employed in wage labour. In general, the workload and duration of the working hours increases as children grow older. Getting accurate, detailed information about children working in different sectors is a major challenge because, in many cases, children work in informal sectors such as agriculture, and in urban settings in restaurants, motor repair workshops and in home-based industries.

Various laws to stop Child Labour in India

Living in this modern world of 21 century, we came across various news related to child labour, news of the factory hazards and misshaping taking place in the life of innocent children all around the newspapers. Today, there are sufficient statutes controlling and prohibiting child labour:

  • The apprentices Act 1861
  • The child labour Act 1986
  • The Hindu minority and guardianship Act 1956
  • The young person (harmful publication) Act 1956
  • The women’s and children’s institution (licensing) Act 1956
  • Reformatory schools Act 1958
  • The orphanages and other charitable Homes (supervision and control) Act 1960
  • Juvenile justice Act 1986
  • The immoral Traffic (prevention) Act 1956
  • The Hindu adoption and Act 1956
  • The child marriage restraint act 1956

All the above mentioned acts protect and prohibit child labour. Anyone who forces or indulges in such activity will be prosecuted and will be awarded with punishment.


There are various laws and regulatory departments for child labour, yet it is ineffective in controlling this ongoing menace in India. This evil will get finished only when all the sections of the society and law enforcement authorities together make an effort in minimizing the cause of child labour. On the other hand, need for education should be encouraged and more education schemes should be implemented so that people understand the need for education for the children to grow and study as they are the future of the nation.


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