Child Labour – Stop it Now or Regret Later

Child - The mere sound of this word can help us conjure an image of a playful little individual who can effortlessly seek happiness by mingling with his/her family members or peer group. A child is someone whose mental and physical development is largely dependent on the social and familial environment they live in. Childhood is a vulnerable phase wherein academic pursuit, good physical activity (read playing with friends) and adequate social interaction in a secure environment can contribute to the kid’s physical and mental well -being.After all, a happy childhood can ensure a bright future. Therefore, the word child labour is a stark contradiction of all things that make for an ideal childhood. To put it lucidly, it’s the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. An exploitative practice but nonetheless rampant in the Indian Industrial space.

India’s 2011 census showed that there were more than 10.2 million “economically active” children in the age group of five to 14 years – 5.6 million boys and 4.5 million girls, 8 million children were working in rural areas, and 2 million in urban areas. Although in rural settings the number of child workers reduced from 11 million to 8 million between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, over the same period, the number of children working in urban settings rose from 1.3 million to 2 million. 1 in every 11 children in India works to earn a living, according to statistics by Action Aid India. Lack of education, poverty and inadequate awareness are some of the factors that have contributed to this abysmal growth of child labour in India. Some analysts believe that an inclusive education system and a stringent law against this malpractice can curtail the growth of child labour in our country.

Though these measures can usher in positive results, history has taught us that child labour laws/policies have remained ineffective in combating this menace. The need of the hour is to address the socioeconomic conditions of our society which compels a child to work at a vulnerable age, most often in deplorable conditions. Industries especially take undue advantage of this tiny workforce as they are not in a position to argue for better wages or conducive work conditions. Most often parents of these kids push them to work due to abject poverty. For a developing country like India, it’s rather shameful to have a parallel economy of unskilled and unregulated workforce of children who are constantly being exploited by their employees, thereby thwarting their development and the future of our country. Is there a light at the end of this dark tunnel? one may wonder.

There definitely is.

Besides inclusive education, stringent use of child labour laws/regulatory frameworks, social audits can play a major role in checking child labour across various industries. Be it an small scale industry or a large one, every organization should give an account of its corporate social performance in terms of providing occupational health and safety, employment to minorities, environmental pollution etc. In the words of some eminent writers’ “social auditing is defined as a systematic attempt to identify, analyse, measure (if possible), evaluate, and monitor the effect of an organisation’s operations on society (that is, specific social groups) and on the public well-being.” Social Audit, therefore, is not merely an inventory of social programs carried out by the company but an effective method to identify and determine the social responsibilities that should have been discharged.

As we have learnt, there are many malicious factors that have contributed to the growth of child labour in our country. But the time has come to alter the economic fabric of our society for a better and brighter future. A tiny step towards this goal can probably be social audits along with making informed decisions and spreading awareness.

These are international standards which ask to not control only child labour but also to provide decent living to all employees of the organizations. These standards help the manufacturers to maintain good work environment in the factories. It gives the confidence to the society that the manufacturers respect the rights of the employees. The overseas buyers also seek these certifications from manufactures to establish that there is no unethical practice during manufacturing of their products.

TUV India is actively supporting manufacturers and their buyers by doing certifications of SA8000, BSCI, SEDEX and WRAP to grow their businesses.

About The Author

Munish JoshiAssistant Manager - Punjab Region
TUV India Pvt Ltd