Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 08:56 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - India

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - India, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 19 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 1999-2000:311,864,479
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 1999-2000:4.1
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 1999-2000:4.1
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 1999-2000:4.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 1999-2000:
     – Agriculture73.3
     – Manufacturing12.4
     – Services11.5
     – Other2.8
Minimum age for work:14 for specified hazardous occupations and processes
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory*
Free public education:No*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:111.9
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:88.7
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:71.5
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2005:65.8
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:No
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* Constitution provides for free, compulsory education for ages 6 to 14, but Parliament has not enacted implementing legislation.

** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

According to the Government of India, the largest number of working children can be found in agriculture, including the production of rice and hybrid seeds. A large number of children can also be found in the informal economy, and ILO reports that children's work is increasingly occurring in home-based production rather than organized factory settings. Other activities in which children work in the informal economy include vending food and other goods, repairing vehicles and tires, construction, food preparation, scavenging and rag-picking, shoe-shining, car washing, begging, and domestic service. The majority of children working in domestic service are girls 12 to 17 years of age, though some are reportedly as young as 5 or 6 years, and many work very long hours and suffer abusive treatment. A large proportion of the working children engaged in waste-picking are from the scheduled castes and tribes, communities that have traditionally suffered from societal discrimination. Children work in service industries such as hotels, food service, and tourism. Working children are found in industries such as quarrying of sandstone and other materials; stone breaking; gemstone polishing; zari-production, consisting of embroidering or sewing beads and colored threads to fabric; and hand-loomed silk cloth, often used to make saris. Children also work in the manufacturing of matches, bricks, carpets, locks, glass bangles, fireworks, leather goods, bidis (cigarettes), footwear, garments, soccer balls, brassware, and other metal goods. The government has identified many of these industries as hazardous for children.

Some reports indicate that large numbers of children work under forced labor conditions in India. Children work under forced or indentured child labor in domestic service, gemstone cutting, quarrying, carpet weaving, brick kilns, and rice mills. Children also work under forced conditions in the production of hybrid seeds, silk thread, garments, and embroidered textiles.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a problem in India; girls as young as 7 years are exploited in brothels in major urban centers. Some child sex tourism has been reported in the states of Goa and Kerala and other popular tourist destinations. There is increasing awareness of boys being exploited in prostitution and sex tourism.

There are reports that children have been recruited to serve as soldiers by armed opposition groups in zones where armed conflict is occurring, such as in Jammu, Kashmir, and Andhra Pradesh.

India is a source, transit, and destination country for minors trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in domestic service; sweatshops; agriculture; and activities such as begging, driving cycle rickshaws, and hotel services. The majority of such children are Indians trafficked within the country and even within the same state. Nepali and Bangladeshi girls, and Indian girls from rural areas, are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in major urban centers such as Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), and New Delhi. In 2008, there were reports of children trafficked from rural areas to New Delhi to work in the zari industry.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Children of any age may be employed, provided employers adhere to restrictions, including a maximum 6-hour workday with a 1-hour rest period, at least 1 day off per week, and no night work or overtime work. Indian law prohibits the employment of children under 14 years in any factory or mine or in 16 hazardous occupations and 66 hazardous processes, including the manufacture or handling of pesticides, carpet weaving, diving, stone grinding, trash picking, and work in slaughterhouses, roadside eateries and restaurants, hotels, tea shops, and other recreational establishments. Children 14 to 18 years may work limited hours in factories during the daytime if they have been granted a certificate of fitness by a certifying doctor. Penalties include fines or imprisonment of 3 months to 1 year or up to 2 years for repeat offenses.

Bonded labor is illegal in India, and the law provides for district-level vigilance committees, headed by district collectors (the principal government officer of the district), to investigate allegations of bonded labor and to release anyone found in bondage. Persons found using bonded labor may be fined and imprisoned for up to 3 years. Commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of boys and girls are prohibited by law. Penalties include imprisonment of 7 to 14 years for procuring, inducing, or taking a minor 16 to 18 years from one place to another for prostitution; the penalty can increase to a life sentence if the victim is under 16 years of age. It is illegal to cause any person to produce or deal in narcotic or psychotropic substances; punishment consists of fines and imprisonment of up to 20 years.

There is no compulsory conscription into the Indian military, and the voluntary recruitment age is 17 years and 6 months.

Enforcement of child labor and forced labor laws is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments, with the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) providing oversight and coordination. From April 2007 to March 2008, 716 bonded laborers were rescued and rehabilitated from the states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. From April 2006 through March 2007, the most recent period for which such data are available, the Government prosecuted 9,436 child labor cases, resulting in 20 convictions. During the reporting period, children were rescued from hazardous work as part of raids in several states, including Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Delhi. Despite these enforcement efforts, the National Human Rights Commission reports that the implementation of child labor laws is inadequate.

From April 2008 to February 2009, more than 1,000 individuals were arrested on trafficking-related offenses in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Goa, and West Bengal, 30 of whom were convicted. Police actions in Tamil Nadu resulted in more than 1,000 additional arrests in trafficking crimes in 2008. Information on arrests involving the trafficking of children specifically is unavailable. USDOS reports that some state governments and the central government have taken specific measures to improve law enforcement, better protect victims, and raise awareness on trafficking issues.

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

India's National Charter for Children (2003) lays out the country's commitments to protect children from hazardous child labor and to provide universal access to primary education with a focus on children with special needs. The National Policy on Child Labor lays out concrete actions for combating child labor, including legislative reforms and projects to provide direct assistance to children. These direct assistance projects are collectively known as the National Child Labor Projects (NCLPs), which operate at the district level to identify working children; withdraw them from hazardous work; and provide education, vocational training, mainstreaming into formal education, stipends, meals, and health checkups. Through January 2009, NCLPs had been established in 250 districts in 21 of India's 28 states, and approximately 9,000 NCLP schools were in operation. The Government has plans to extend the NCLP program to every district in the country

(610) by 2012. The NCLP scheme is linked to the Ministry of Human Resource Development's Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All) program to ensure children's smooth transition from NCLP schools into the formal education system. With support from UNICEF, MOLE is piloting a National Tracking System of children in NCLP schools in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

MOLE's Grants-in-Aid scheme funds NGOs to provide working children with education and vocational training opportunities, health care, and nutrition supplements. During 2007 to 2008, the scheme provided financial assistance to 117 NGOs. MOLE's Skill Development Initiative Scheme gives priority to children withdrawn from child labor and parents of child laborers for vocational training programs to improve their employability. MOLE also carries out large-scale awareness-raising activities on child labor. A toll-free helpline called Child Line provides counseling to children in need and referral to rehabilitation services in 76 cities across India. In February 2009, an additional helpline was established by the Delhi government to help rescue children found begging. The Ministry of Women and Child Development's (MWCD) Scheme for the Welfare of Working Children in Need of Care and Protection and Integrated Scheme for Street Children provides nutrition, health services, and education to street children and working children. In 2008, the government supported several full-page awareness-raising advertisements in national newspapers. Additionally, the Indian Postal Service conducted awareness-raising through disseminating and collecting information on human trafficking to remote villages in the northeast.

The states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Orissa are implementing state-level action plans to eliminate child labor from hazardous industries. In 2008, the government of Gujarat committed funds to implement its action plan. From February 2005 through March 2009, the U.K. Government provided USD 4.85 million to support the state government of Andhra Pradesh to pilot its action plan. In 2008, the government of Uttar Pradesh launched a conditional cash transfer scheme to support the schooling of working children. In order to prevent drop outs from schools, most states in India implement a mid-day meal program for children in grades 1 to 5 in government run schools.

The Government of India and USDOL jointly funded and collaborated on the USD 40 million INDUS project, which withdrew more than 100,000 children from work in 10 hazardous sectors – bidis, brassware, bricks, fireworks, footwear, glass bangles, locks, matches, quarrying, and silk. The project, implemented by ILO-IPEC, was designed to complement the NCLP program and Government primary education initiatives. Target areas were 21 districts in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, as well as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The project concluded in March 2009. The Government is currently participating in a USDOL-funded USD 6.85 million Convergence Model Project, which targets 10,500 children for withdrawal and 8,500 children for prevention from work in hazardous labor in 10 districts in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa (2008-2012). The project, implemented by ILO-IPEC, is designed to strengthen the Government's efforts to combat hazardous child labor through different initiatives operated by various ministries. With support from the Government of Italy, the state government of Karnataka is participating in a USD 3.6 million ILO-IPEC project to combat exploitive child labor and economic exploitation of adolescents in the sericulture (silk farming) industry; the project is scheduled to end in July 2009.

The Government of India and its state governments are collaborating on a program to rescue and rehabilitate child and adult bonded laborers. This includes administering surveys to identify bonded laborers, stipends of 20,000 rupees (USD 408), training and education for each person rescued, and awareness-raising activities. MOLE is also partnering with ILO on a project to identify and provide rehabilitative services to bonded laborers in selected states, as well as train local officials on bonded labor issues.

The Government's National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children aims to rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of trafficking into society. In 2008, the Government issued a protocol of guidelines for the rescue, repatriation, and rehabilitation of trafficked and migrant children. MWCD coordinates a wide range of anti-trafficking activities, in collaboration with NGOs and state governments, including awareness-raising programs; victim rescue; shelter homes; and the provision of counseling, legal aid, medical care, repatriation, and rehabilitative services. These efforts include MWCD's new Ujjawala scheme, which supports the reintegration and repatriation of trafficking victims. Since August 2008, MCWD has provided more than USD 240,000 in funding to 18 projects at 12 rehabilitation centers in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, and Nagaland to provide services to trafficking victims. MWCD is providing more than USD 1 million in support to 200 shelters. Information was not available on the number of specific child trafficking survivors whom the shelters supported. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Bihar operate Anti-Human Trafficking Units. Also in 2008, the Government sponsored child migration and trafficking training for 22 state and federal officials. In partnership with UNODC, the governments of Andra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Goa, and West Bengal trained 13,490 police officials and prosecutors on trafficking issues.

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