Child labour is a widespread issue that affects millions of children around
the world. It refers to work that obstructs children's development and education
or exploits them in some other way, infringing upon their human rights. It is
defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as "work that deprives
children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is
harmful to their physical and mental development"1 (Organization, 2021).
Among the nations with the highest rates of child labour are both Pakistan and
India. Child labour remains a serious issue in both countries. Although both
nations have enacted laws and programmes to combat child labour, the
effectiveness of these measures has been constrained by a lack of funding,
insufficient enforcement mechanisms, and socioeconomic considerations. This
article discusses the comparative analysis of the child labour laws of India and
Child Labour laws in India and Pakistan
The first law in India to address the child labour was the Children
(Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933 which prohibited the pledging of children's
labour as security against loans. Subsequently, the Mines Act, 1952, the
Factories Act, 1948, the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, and the Shops and
Establishments Act, 1961 were enacted to prohibit the employment of children
in hazardous industries.
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 19862 (India, 1986) was
enacted to prohibit the employment of children below the age of 14 in
hazardous industries such as mines, factories, and construction sites. The
statute also prohibits the employment of children between the ages of 14 and
18 in hazardous occupations such as mining and explosives. However, the act
allows children to work in non-hazardous industries and occupations outside
of school hours or during vacations.
Similarly, in Pakistan, the Employment of Children Act, 19913 (Pakistan,
1991) prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 in any
occupation or industry. The act also prohibits the employment of children
between the ages of 14 and 18 in hazardous occupations and industries.
However, like in India, the act allows children to work in non-hazardous
industries and occupations outside of school hours or during vacations.
In addition to the laws mentioned above, both countries have ratified the
International Labour Organization's (ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of
Child Labour, 1999 which requires the prohibition and elimination of the
worst forms of child labour, including slavery, forced labour, and
To address the issue of child labour, the Indian government has established
a number of policies. The National Child Labour Project (NCLP) seeks to
provide children with education, vocational training, and a stipend in order
to assist them recover after being rescued from hazardous occupations. The
Right to Education Act, 2009 makes education a fundamental right (Article
21-A of the Constitution) for children between the ages of 6 and 14,
ensuring that all children have access to free and compulsory education.
Similarly, Pakistan government has also implemented policies to address
child labour. The National Child Labour Survey (NCLS) attempts to collect
information on child labour, its causes, and its effects, to develop
elimination strategies. The National Plan of Action (NPA) aims to eliminate
child labour by providing education, health care, and social security to
vulnerable children and their families.
Analysis: Implementation of Labour Laws
Although both countries have laws and policies to address child labour, these
laws have not been properly implemented.
In India, despite the existence of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation)
Act, 1986 child labour is still prevalent, particularly in the unorganized
sector. Lack of awareness about the hazards of child labour and significance of
education among parents and employers has been a major challenge.
Similarly, in Pakistan, the Employment of Children Act has not been effectively
implemented, and child labour still prevails, particularly in the informal
sector. The absence of a coherent strategy to eliminate child labour and lack of
collaboration among governmental institutions have been a major challenge.
The lack of political will and insufficient resources for enforcement have been
major impediments in addressing the issue. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic
has made the issue of child labour worse in both countries. As a result of the
lockdown, economic downturn and the closure of schools, many children have been
forced to do labour to support their families.
Both nations must strengthen their legislative frameworks and enhance the
efficacy of their enforcement actions in order to eradicate child labour
completely. This can be achieved through greater awareness and initiatives like
education campaigns for parents, employers, and children themselves
(Organization, Global Estimates of Child Labour, 2017).4 The government must
guarantee to provide access to education, healthcare, and social protection for
vulnerable children and their families.
To ensure compliance with child labour laws, particularly in the informal
sector, the government must further strengthen the monitoring and enforcement
measures. This can be achieved by expanding the number of labour inspectors and
carrying out regular workplace inspections to identify and tackle child labour
The government should additionally collaborate with trade unions, civil society
organisations, and other stakeholders to build a comprehensive plan to eradicate
child labour. This plan should include steps to address the underlying issues
that lead to child labour, such as poverty, illiteracy, and social exclusion.5
The government should also offer youth vocational training and other
opportunities to gain knowledge and skills that will enable them to find
reputable employment and contribute to the economy. This will help prevent youth
from being pushed into the unorganized sector and exploitative labour practices.
The effective eradication of child labour demands a multifaceted approach due to
its complexities. Both India and Pakistan have policies and legislation in place
to address child labour, but they have not been effectively implemented or
enforced. The COVID-19 pandemic has further escalated the issue, making it even
more urgent to take action.
Both nations need to strengthen their laws and policies, raise awareness and
educate the public, provide access to healthcare, education, and social
protection, bolster monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and work with civil
society organisations and other stakeholders to develop an all-encompassing
strategy for eliminating child labour. Only through a concerted effort can we
ensure that all children have the opportunity to enjoy their childhood, access
education, and grow up to become productive and empowered members of society.
- Organization, I. L. (2021). What is Child Labour. Retrieved from International Labour Organization: https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang--en/index.htm
- India, G. o. (1986, December 23). Retrieved from Ministry of Labour and Employment: https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/act_2.pdf
- Pakistan, G. o. (1991, April 6). Retrieved from National Assembly of Pakistan: https://na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/1335242011_887.pdf
- Organization, I. L. (2017). Global Estimates of Child Labour. Geneva: International Labour Organization.
- KHAN, M. A. (2011, August 3). Implementing Laws against Child Labor: A Case Study of Pakistan. Retrieved from SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1904268
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