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Post at: Aug 12 2021

Breaking the Cycle of Child Labour in India


  • On June 10, 2021 the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF jointly summarized that 160 million children are in child labour in 2020.
  • According to the ILO, there are around 12.9 million children engaged in work between the ages of 7 to 17 years old.


Child labour is less a phenomenon of poverty than of social attitudes and sensibilities learning skills through education is a sure way to break the cycle of child labour and low income.


  • The Census of India 2011 reports that 10.1 million children in the age group of 5-14 years are working children. 8.1 million Children are working in rural areas mainly engaged as cultivators and agricultural labourers.
  • Whereas a Rapid Survey on Children (2013-14), jointly undertaken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development & UNICEF found that less than half of children in the age group of 10-14 years have completed primary education.
  • As per NSS (National Sample Survey) report 2017-2018 suggests that only 79.6% of the children in the age group of 14-17 years are attending educational institutions.
  • However the above estimated reports may not appear to be immediately dangerous but it may produce long term and devastating consequences for their education, their skills education. Hence it results into the vicious cycle of poverty, incomplete education and poor-quality jobs.


  • Child labour in India is decreased in the decade 2021 to 2011 by applying the policy internationals such as Right to Education Act 2009 and the Mid-day Meal Scheme & some other initiatives taken as per government instructions & mandated provision in the constitution.

  • The Ministry of Labour and Employment operated online portal (PENCIL) since 2017.



  • The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2020 survey shows that a third of the total enrolled children received some kind of learning materials from their teachers in its reference period October 2020 as digital made of education. Thus digital divide is a challenge to move online platforms for continuation of learning.
  • With closures of school & subsequent lockdown children dropped out or may drop out the schools.
  • As per NSS Report 2017-18, only 24% of Indian households has access to an internet facility, proportions were 15% among rural households and 42% among urban households.
  • With increased economic insecurity lack of social protection & reduced household income (in context to migrant labourer’s children), children from poor households are being pushed to the family income with the risk of exposure to exploitative/hazardous work. Hence, pandemic has posed a real risk of back tracking the gains made in eliminating child labour.



  • There is a need of high level of commitment among all the relevant stakeholders & right policy interventions & policies as countries around the world have agreed to in Sustainable Development Goals 8.7 to end the child labour in all its forms by 2025. We can end this social menace by adopting comprehensive and strategic partnership with UNESCO.
  • By developing stronger infrastructure to provide uninterrupted internet connectivity & electronic devices to students, digital divide & school drop outs during pandemic can be checked.



We are celebrating year 2021 as the International year for the elimination of child labour. Hence, we governments, employers, unions, civil society organisations and even individuals must pledge to take action against child labour. The action day taken by ours will determine the future of children tomorrow.

@  Amit Gupta

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