Child labour is done by any working child who is under the age specified by law. The word, “work” means full time commercial work to sustain self or add to the family income. Child labour is a hazard to a Child’s mental, physical, social, educational, emotional and spiritual development. Broadly any child who is employed in activities to feed self and family is being subjected to “child labour’.
It is obligatory for all countries to set a minimum age for employment according to the rules of ILO written in Convention 138(C.138). The stipulated age for employment should not be below the age for finishing compulsory schooling that is not below the age of 15. Developing countries are allowed to set the minimum age at 14 years in accordance with their socio- economic circumstances.
The issue of Child labour is a world phenomenon which is considered exploitative and inhuman. Child labour is widely prevalent in some form or the other, all over the world. The term is used for domestic work, factory work, agriculture, mining, quarrying, having own work or business’ like selling food etc, helping parent’s business and doing odd jobs. Children are regularly employed to guide tourists, sometimes doubling up as a marketing force to bring in business for shop owners and other business establishment. In some industries children are forced to do repetitive and tedious work like weaving carpets, assembling boxes, polishing shoes, cleaning and arranging shops goods. It is seen that children are found working more in the informal sectors compared to factories and commercial registered organizations. Little children are often seen selling in the streets or working as domestic servants within the high walls of homes – hidden away from the eyes of the outside world. The children are used for military purpose and child prostitution. The most appalling form of child labour is prostitution and modelling for child pornography. Some children are even sold to fiefs by their parents for money.
According to the statistics given by International Labour Organization there are about 218 million children between the age of 5 and 17 working all over the world. The figure excludes domestic labour. The fact that vulnerable children are being exploited and forced into work, which is not fit for their age, is a human rights concern now. India and other developed and developing countries are really plagued by the problem of child employment in organized and unorganized sectors.
Child labour is a human rights issue of immense sensitivity. Child labour is considered exploitative by the United Nations and International Labour Organization. The article 32 of the UN speaks about child labour as follows-“States parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”
In India, Mizoram has the highest share of workers aged between 5 and 14 years in total population. Lakshwadeep has the lowest share of workers aged between 5 and 14 years in total population. The most inhuman and onerous form of child exploitation is the age old practice of bonded labour in India. In this, the child is sold to the loaner like a commodity for a certain period of time. His labour is treated like security or collateral security and cunning rich men procure them for small sums at exorbitant interest rates. The practice of bonded child labour is prevalent in many parts of rural India, but is very conspicuously in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu. Here the bonded child is allowed to reside with his parents, if he presents himself for work at 8 a.m. every day. The practice of child bonded labour persists like a scourge to humanity in spite of many laws against it. These laws although stringent and providing for imprisonment and imposition of huge fines on those who are found guilty are literally non- functional in terms of implementation.