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 Child Labour: India's growth story

CHILDLINE India Foundation » DOCUMENTS & REPORTS » Cause Viewpoint » Child Labour: India's growth story

Over the past ten years of about eight per cent per anum GDP growth, there has been widespread talk of India's Demographic Dividend (share of population in 15-60 age group) arising out of the young average age of India's population.

The theory is that the small the share of population in the below 15 and above 60, the greater the contribution of the productive population to GDP growth. Among the propagators of the India Demographic Dividend story are Dr. Manmohan Singh, Hon'ble Prime Minister and many notable figures around the world. Many present the story as though the demographic contours of India have been carefully sculpted through policy, management and governance. Far from it, India has a history of ignoring demographic trends and not preparing for it.

The 2001 census threw up the figures that children under 18 accounted for almost 43% of India's population of about 450 million. Yet, inspite of the first UPA government manifesto of a commitment of nine per cent of annual Union budget for children, even as of 2011, a little more than four per cent is allocated towards children. In this gap between the needs of the world's largest children's population and (amongst) the world's lowest per child budgets that is allocated in India is the story of Indian Children's contribution to the GDP. The story of Child Labour in India.

The story is best unfolded by an examination of the Census data on child Labour. The Census data for child Labour has traditionally been presented as children upto 14 years:

Year

Child Labour as reported by Census 2010

1971
10753985
1981 13640870
1991 11285349
2001 12666377

The figure of 12.67 million as child labour has been widely reported. The department of Census, Government of India has just published provisional census data for the Census of 2010. (http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-common/censusdataonline.html) .

Once again the age wise data reported by the Census is 5-9 yrs, 10-14 yrs and 15-19 years. Since the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 has pegged the age of children, in line with international conventions, at 18, we can no longer overlook the population of working children in the age group of 15-18. However, the Census does not show this breakup.

 

Population of Main workers in Census 2010:

All India Main Workers

 Male

 Female

 Total

5-9 yrs

501890

308209

810099

10-14 yrs

3070300

1858116

4928416

15-19 yrs

15098122

5448644

20546766

Total India

18670312

7614969

26285281

% of child labour to total workforce

7.78%

10.47%

8.41%

Total workforce (all ages)

239923441

72708941

312632382

The Census also reports population of children in Marginal workers of India:

All India Marginal Workers

 Male

 Female

 Total

5-9 yrs

495494

534927

1030421

10-14 yrs

2711397

3146172

5857569

15-19 yrs

5821090

5929351

11750441

Total India

9027981

9610450

18638431

% to total workforce

25.90%

17.67%

20.89%

Total workforce (all ages)

34859808

54374298

89234106

Lets us see the picture when both Main workers and Marginal workers are combined:

All India Total Workforce

 Male

 Female

 Total

5-9 yrs

997384

843136

1840520

10-14 yrs

5781697

5004288

10785985

15-19 yrs

20919212

11377995

32297207

Total India

27698293

17225419

44923712

% to total workforce

10.08%

13.55%

11.18%

Total workforce (all ages)

274783249

127083239

401866488

If you take the children up to 14, the total number of children in the workforce is 12626505. Almost the same as previous census of 2001. The real picture emerges when you start adding the child work force in the ages 15-19. One could argue that 19 year olds ought to be excluded from the calculation of child Labourers. However the Census does not, as yet provide that data. However, a detailed analysis of the same shows that vast bulk of 15-19 yr olds have not completed 10th. So, they have been in the workforce before they turned 18. For the sake of discussion we have to include this age group (15-19) in the workforce.

The shocking news is that 11% of the workforce of India is child labour. One in every 10 workers in India is a child! If you allocate a tenth of India's GDP to this share you can see India's Child Labour has a stake in India's GDP. A detailed analysis of the various sectors presented in the Census data for both main and marginal workers clearly shows that some sectors are more prone to child labour than others.

What can be done about Child Labour? In 1979, the Government appointed Gurupadswamy Committee studied the issue of child labour and observed that as long as poverty remains, it would be difficult to totally eliminate child labour and hence, any attempt to abolish it through legal recourse would not be a practical proposition.

The Committee recommended a ban on child labour in hazardous areas and a multiple policy to deal with the problems of working children. Based on the recommendations of Gurupadaswamy Committee, the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986. The Act prohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others.

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