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Laboring under delusion. Common myths about child labor. Vinod Viswanath. Child Labor in India. There are more children under 14 in India than the entire USA population Children under 14 form 3.6% of India’s labor force Of these, 9 out of 10 work in their own rural family settings

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Laboring under delusion

Common myths about child labor

Vinod Viswanath


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Child Labor in India

  • There are more children under 14 in India than the entire USA population

  • Children under 14 form 3.6% of India’s labor force

  • Of these, 9 out of 10 work in their own rural family settings

  • 85% are engaged in agriculture related labor

  • Less than 9% in manufacturing and less than 1% in factories


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Child Labor in India

  • GOI figure is 15million child laborers

  • Actual figures are much higher

    • ILO/UNICEF figures upto 80million

  • Stone quarries, Brick kilns, picking rags in city streets, domestic servants

  • Earn little; much abused

  • They don’t go to school

  • More than 50% do not attain basic literacy

  • Mostly from SC/ST/Dalit communities


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 1: Employers are obligating children by employing them

    • Solely profit motive for employers

    • Child labor is low/no cost exploitation

    • Children work for little/no wage for long hours

    • Gem/jewelry, carpets, brass/artwork, handlooms, tea etc.


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 2: Poverty is the single major cause for child labor

    • Most child laborers do come from impoverished social setting

    • Children start working at an young age, hence remain illiterate/unskilled; are burnt out by the time they are adults; as adults suffer from unemployment and increase chances of child labor in the next generation!

    • Child labor, in fact, causes poverty!


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 3: If children do not work, they and their families will starve

    • Starvation is an independent problem

    • Pricing policy, low income, unequal food distribution

    • Liberalization policies

    • Eg: farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 4: Child labor is the result of the poor having more children than they can provide for

    • Policy level problem

    • Eg, the poverty index measures “calorific consumption” of people and not in terms of denial of basic rights to education and health care

    • Kerala, with its land reforms and a strong working panchayat system has lowest child labor incidence


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 5: Parents would rather send their children to work than to school

    • Definitely not true until ages of 10

    • Mid-day meal scheme has helped a good bit

    • Efficacy of formal education system a factor, depending on socio-economic situation


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 6: Children themselves want to work

    • Mostly because they cannot conceive of an alternative

    • Lack of access to schools

    • Irrelevant curriculum

    • Physical abuse from teachers

    • Earning enhances self worth


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 7: There is nothing wrong in allowing children to work in non-hazardous occupations

    • Hazardous is debatable

    • Focus on what is hazardous to the child, rather than inherent hazardous nature of the occupation


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 8: If children work, they become equipped with skills for their future

    • No skill being developed

    • Exposure to various work environments as a child will only endanger their future


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 9: Child labor is necessary to preserve traditional arts and crafts

    • This argument hides the reality of children bonded to families, or hired bonded laborers are rarely taught any art or craft

    • The arts and crafts can be passed on within the child’s family as part of their socialization and growing up


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 10: Children work faster and have nimble fingers needed in certain types of work, especially knotting carpets

    • In various studies undertaken in carpet industries, match making industries, as well as weaving industries, this has been proved a myth


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 11: Industry will collapse if child labor is not available

    • ILO conducted a study among gem polishing, brassware, carpet and match industries

    • Increase in cost of a product by employing adults instead of children is marginal and can be easily absorbed by either the industry itself or the consumer


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 12: A global ban on child labor products will force the elimination of the practice of child labor and protect children's rights

    • Global ban proposals focus on export oriented products

    • Bulk of India’s child labor is in domestic industries (92%)

    • Linking concerns of human rights to export and trade only serves the concerns of developed nations

    • Social clauses and blanket boycotts do not make any commitment towards rehabilitation of these children


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Laboring under delusion

  • Myth 13: Legislation prohibiting child labor is sufficient to resolve the problem

    • Sometimes legislation can compound the problem

    • Child Labor Prevention and Regulation Act of 1986 is in violation of articles 14,21, 23,24 of the constitution

    • This legislation does not prescribe minimum age limit and prohibits employing children in specific occupations which removes the protection given to children by the earlier articles of the constitution against all kinds of employment


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GOI perspective

  • There is no child labor in India

    • 1933: Enactment of Children (Pledging of Labor) Act of February 1933

    • 1974: National Policy on Children – policy of the state to provide adequate services to children

    • 1986: The Child Labor (Prohibition & Regulation) Act

    • 1993: working conditions of children have been regulated in all employment not prohibited under the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act

    • 1992: Convention on the Rights of the Child -- awareness act


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India’s 5 yr old policeman

  • Forced into labor

  • Saurabh works at the police

    station in Raipur

  • Part of an Indian system that allows a family member to take the post of a government employee who dies while in service

  • There is no age limit and many families have no alternative but to send young children to work to make ends meet


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