Child Labour: Meaning and Causes

According to Indian law, child labour is the act of hiring children under the age of 14 to work in hazardous situations either voluntarily or under duress. This wreaks havoc on their bodily and mental well-being and serves as the lone cause of their underdevelopment. A child at such a young age is expected to play, learn, and live carefree.

But expectations rarely match reality because of the nature of things. Children are forced or compelled to work in dangerous environments and conditions that endanger their lives. Child labour, according to the International Labour Organization [ILO], is any work that prevents a child from receiving a proper education or from attending school regularly.

What is Child Labour?

The term "child labour" is frequently used to describe work that is detrimental to a child's physical and mental development, robs them of their youth, and violates their potential and dignity. According to the Child and Adolescent Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, which was amended in 2016, any person under the age of 14 is considered a child, and child labour is a method of exploitation of these children by subjecting them to work that robs them of their childhood, dignity, and potential and damages them physically and mentally.

Causes of Child Labor in India

The following key causes of child labour in India −

  • Poverty − The primary motivation for families to force their children into child labour is to support each other financially. Apart from this ignorance, other factors contributing to child labour in India include parental unemployment and illiteracy. Young children are exposed to working in unfavourable settings for low pay.

  • Industry Requirement − From the manufacturing of jewellery to the production of explosives, these sectors require risky processes and high levels of precision, making it practical to hire youngsters under the age of 14. Children are frequently chosen to carry out their instructions in these situations since adults normally lack the delicate and small hands necessary to produce these things. These little people suffer severe accidents as a result.

  • Lack of Awareness − Numerous Indians, particularly those from low-income households, are unaware of the negative effects of child labour and cheerfully send their kids off to work without giving it any attention.

Act Against Child Labor

Because there are so many risks for kids working for companies, various laws were passed to control teen employment and create favourable working circumstances for them.

Major legislations are −

  • The Factories Act of 1948 − Any youngster under the age of 14 is not permitted to work in any factory, according to the law. It controls when and how preadolescents, ages 15 to 18, can work in each given factory.

  • The Mines Act of 1952 − Any youngster under the age of 14 is not allowed to work in the aforementioned mines, according to the law. The act prohibits an adolescent of any age until age 18 from working in mines because it is a hazardous line of work.

  • Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act − The statute, which was recently modified in the year 2008, prohibits the employment of any kid under the age of 14 in any legally defined risky fields of labor. It controls how teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 are employed.

  • Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act 2000 − The statute concentrates on the penalties meted out to anyone who engages in using a child of any age as a slave or in dangerous labor. It increases penalties for anyone who disobeys any child labour and employment laws stated in the statutes.

  • Children's Right to Free and Compulsory Education − The law makes it mandatory for kids between the ages of 6 and 14 to get a free education. It sets aside 25% of the places in each private school for students with exceptional needs.

  • National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights − The Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, a piece of legislation passed by Congress in 2005, authorised the creation of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in March 2007. The Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act of 2005 established the National Commission for the Protection of Children's Rights (NCPCR), a statutory agency that reports to the Government of India's Ministry of Women & Child Development.

  • National Child Labor Project Scheme − In an effort to rehabilitate working children, the government launched the NCLP programme in 1988. The programme aims to take a step-by-step approach, with a rehabilitation programme for kids involved in risky jobs and procedures as its main objective. To implement the programmes and make gradual modifications to reach the goals, the government sets guidelines.


The child labour prohibition and rehabilitation act is the ultimate saviour of teenagers who are to be employed, putting restrictions on the fields of work and punishing when the rules are broken. With so many actions being taken by the Indian government to end child labour, particularly that of adolescents under the age of 14, including the creation of labour cells, the launch of projects addressing child labour, and much more, one can conclude that India is actually progressing.

It is also true that India's court has contributed significantly to the significant advancement in the area of child labour. The knowledge of child labour has increased, and business involvement in it has reduced, thanks to several judgements that repeatedly highlight the dos and don'ts an employer must remember when hiring a teenager. Children under the age of 18 should not be risking their lives to work; instead, they should invest in their futures so that both they and the country can shine brilliantly, according to the child labour laws.


Q1. How can someone stop child labour practiced in his or her area?

Ans. If someone wishes to help the child labourers, it is a fantastic idea. He can speak with their parents and nudge them into enrolling their kids in classes. He can let the business owners know that he will file a complaint against them if they hire young children as employees.

Q2. What is the effect of the Child Labor Act of 1986?

Ans. The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 forbids the employment of children under the age of 14 in 65 processes that endanger the lives and health of the children. Its effect is pretty noticeable, as the number of such child labours reduced.

Q3. What are the penalties for not complying with child labour laws?

Ans. The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 contains provisions relating to penalties for employers who do not adhere to its laws. These provisions state that if an employer hires a child in violation of the Act's rules, they will face either imprisonment for at least three months and up to a year, a fine of at least 10,000 rupees and up to 20,000 rupees, or both.

Updated on: 14-Feb-2023


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