India imposes restraints on child labour

After years of lobbying, also by Terre des Hommes, the Indian government seems to change tack: child labour has to stop. To show that the government is serious about this, they recently signed two conventions on children’s rights: one to lay down the minimum age at which children are allowed to work and one that prohibits children under 18 from performing dangerous work or work that may be harmful to their health.

 

Child labour

The 12 million child labourers in India under the age of 14 constitute 11.18% of the working population in the spinning, textile and clothing, construction, domestic work and mining industries. These children are forced to work for example because of poverty, lack of education, demographic pressure and social exclusion.

Action against child labour is much needed in India

“It is high time for India to take further action in combating child labour and to align national legislation with these conventions. This is a major development,” explains children’s rights expert Aysel Sabahoglu. “By singing the two covenants, the government commits itself to reporting about their fight against child labour to the International Labour Organization (ILO).” India is one of the last countries to sign the ILO conventions.

National legislation vs. ILO conventions

The question remains, however, whether the Indian government will align national legislation with the ILO conventions. Last year’s brand new child labour law still allows children aged 14 years and over to collaborate with their parents, for example in the field or as domestic workers. This type of work in particular is often physically demanding and time-consuming, which makes it difficult for children to combine with school, if they attend school to begin with. They have no energy or time left to do their homework. As a result they fall behind in school and the likelihood of dropping out increases.

Terre des Hommes in India

In India, Terre des Hommes fights for example against the exploitation of over 20,000 children who work under dangerous conditions in the mica mines. In the regions of Jharkland and Bihar, Terre des Hommes makes villages child-friendly: villages where children do not work but do go to school and their parents are aware of the risks posed by child labour. Now that the covenants are signed, this strengthens the position of children’s rights organizations in the region. Enforcement by the government is crucial: will the government ensure that the conventions are enforced thereby reinforcing the 2016 law? Terre des Hommes will continue to closely monitor the situation in India.

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