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Why Child Labor Still Exists In India And Why These Laws Are Able To Stop It Completely?

"Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time". This is a popular quote by an American social worker Grace Abbott in which she said that using child labor as a means to solve the problem of poverty was never a good idea and it will not solve the problem of poverty.

Child labor in basic terms is exploitation of children by engaging them in harmful works or using them in hazardous work environment s such as factories, construction sites, depriving them from living or enjoying their childhood and stopping them from getting educated by engaging them in harmful works or environment.

In India child labor is a major issue. Child labor in India exists due to many factors such as lack of resources, poverty, lack of work opportunities to the adults, lack of education and social prejudice. Apart from these there are many more factors that contribute to the issue of child labor in India.

Government of India takes various steps to stop child labor in India and there are laws also that tries to stop child labor in India but after all this we are still not able to stop it completely till date. So, the question we are trying to answer in this article is "Why child labor still exists in India and why these laws are able to stop it completely?"

Problem of child labor in India

In India child labor is a major issue. We often see children working at construction sites, shops and factories. These children mostly belong to lower class or poor families mostly. According to Census 2011 statistics, there are 10.1 million child labourers in India, 5.6 million of them are males and 4.5 million of whom are girls. Globally, it is estimated that 152 million children, 64 million girls and 88 million boys, work as children, making up approximately one in ten of all children. (UNICEF)

Child labour is a result of many factors such as poverty, lack of education, lack of resources and many other social factors. The main states in which child labour is still prevalent are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujrat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal.

(Ministry Of Labour & Employment, Government Of India, 2011) According to the Census of 2011 the no. of child labour in these states are:

Andhra Pradesh: 404851
Bihar: 451590
Gujrat: 250318
Karnataka: 249432
Madhya Pradesh: 286310
Rajasthan: 252338
West Bengal: 234275

These numbers show us the situation of child labour in India. According to a research paper published in International Journal of Law Management and Humanities in 2017 India was one of the leading countries in Asian region which has the most child labour working in various places.

It was estimated that there were around 33 million child labour in India of which 80% were from rural India only. Not only this, the census of 2011 shows that children working under age of 14 alone accounts for 10 million in numbers. (Chakrabarty, 2021)

Another report Published in U.S Department of Labour in 2020 gives us an estimate of percentage of children working in each sector (U.S Department of Labor, 2020)

The above given data shows us that Agriculture sector has the greatest number of child labour, followed by industry and services sector.

Reasons of child labour in India

There are many reasons for child labour in India. Some reasons exist for a very long period of time, like social discrimination against the labour class or a lower social image of the members of this class.

As we saw in the above data, the highest number of child labourers in India are working in the agriculture sector.

The reasons behind this are:
  • Poverty in rural areas
  • Limited access to quality education to the children in rural India
  • Limited access to the latest agricultural technology and farming methods
  • Lack of adult labor in farms and agricultural fields

We have to understand this fact that asking children for doing small tasks like filling water bucket from well or feeding cows and other light tasks are different from involving children in extensive and hard labour in fields and farms. This type of practice counts as child labor.

Types of child labour:

Child labour in Industrial sectors
Child labour in Indian industries are one of the worst forms of child labour. These industrial child labours mostly work in small shops or factories like stone bricks, clothing, paper mill, sugar mill factories. Some children also work in hazardous factories like firecrackers, washing agents, chemicals and iron and steel factories, These are not only illegal but very dangerous for children. They work there for long hours without proper care or proper safety gears.

Child labour in Domestic help:
Children involving in domestic help are:
common in urban areas. These children mostly belong to poor families and don't have access to school and education. Their parents take them to various houses where they work as domestic help alongside with them.

Child labour in Agriculture sector
Child labour in agriculture sector is most prevalent in India. Most of the rural children gets involve in agricultural works in a very small age. There are many reasons for this like poverty, family tradition, lack of proper education and many more. Child labour in Agriculture sector accounts for roughly 57% of the total child labour in India.

Various laws in India to prevent child labour

There are many laws in India that makes child labour illegal:
The Factories Act 1948
According to this act employment of any children under the age of 14 in any place is prohibited. This law also provide us provisions related to the employment of pre- adults ( 15-18) years old in any factory.

The Mine Act of 1952
This section says that the minimum age to engage in any mining related activity is 18 years old and any person below this is completely prohibited to engage or work in any mining related activity.

The Merchant ship act 1958
This act prohibits any children under 14 years of age to engage or carry out and ship related work or labor in any form.

The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act 1986
This act prohibits the engagement or employment of any children under 14 years of age in any hazardous work as provided in the list of hazardous works in this section. This law is expanded 2 times in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act 2000
This act makes employment of children in any hazardous work a crime and the person you commit this can be punished with prison sentence.

Important case laws and landmark judgements related to child labour in India

M.C. Mehta vs State Of Tamil Nadu And Others on 10 December, 1996
Background: In this case an activist lawyer filed a petition claiming that the rights of children were being violated and it's a pure violation of article 24 of the constitution of India which says that "no children below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any hazardous employment. (CRIN, 1996) (Tripathi, 2019)

Resolution by the court: In this case the court says that it's a clear violation of article 24 of the constitution of India and ordered that:
Any person who is employing child labour in their factories, mines or any hazardous working condition but release them immediately and also the ordered them to pay 20,000 rupees for every illegally employed children in a fund called "Child Labour Rehabilitation-cum Welfare Fund" and that money can only be used strictly for the benefit and care of that child only.

Court also ordered the government to provide employment to any adult member of each family having a child working in factories, mines or any hazardous condition. If providing employment is not possible them the government have to deposit a amount of rupees 5,000 in that same fund for each children.

If the government provides an employment to any of the family member, it's the responsibility of the government and the parents or guardian of the children to ensure that the children must not continue to work and he or she must be entered into a full time education.

In this case the Supreme Court of India says that's the main cause of child labour in India is poverty.

Laborers Working on Salal vs. the State of Jammu And Kashmir
In Laborers Working on Salal vs. the State Of Jammu And Kashmir, a bench of Justice P Bhagwati and R Misra issued the following directive on April 25, 1984: "That no child under the age of 14 years is employed by any contractor/subcontractor on any factories in the schemes." If any contractor or subcontractor uses child labour, quick orders for their break must be given right away, and a summary report must be given to the authorities.

Why Child labor still exists in India?
In India, child labor is still a big issue that can be seen in our day-to-day life. We see children working in our near by grocery shops, factories etc. After all the laws and steps that government takes to stop this, the issue of child labor is still a big issue.

There are several reasons for this:
  • Lack of proper education to the children
  • Lack of proper guidance
  • Lack of employment to their families
  • Lack of economic resources
  • Social stigma
These are the main reasons that are contributing in child labor even today.

How can we stop this?
To stop child labor we need to take some steps on large and individual scale.

Educate poor children
We need to educate these children so that they can gain knowledge and can free themselves from this vicious practice. If we start educating these children, they will get skilled and can find better working opportunities once they attain the age of majority.

We need to guide these children about how to get out of this cycle and how to start working towards their future so that they can get educated, earn better and can end this cycle of child labour for their upcoming generations.

We can do this by organizing small drives or campaigns in these slums or areas where most of these child labour come from. We can raise funds for them and help them in getting their education,

Punish those who force them in this cycle
We need to take strict actions against those who are employing them in these kinds of dangerous and harmful works and preventing them from getting educated. We need to punish them either by fines o imprisonment. There are various provisions in our constitution that provides power to the authorities to take these kinds of actions.

In the end we can conclude that child labor in India is a very big issue that need to addressed seriously weather it's on individual level or national level. We need to help those that are trapped in this vicious cycle and punish those who are pushing them into this cycle.

We also need to solve the root cause of this problem that is poverty. By eradicating poverty, we can drastically reduce the number of child labor. Government can provide work opportunities to the family members of these child labors so that the children don't have to earn for their family and can invest that time in their childhood and education.

Work Cited:
  • Chakrabarty, D. (2021). Child Labour in India. International Journal of Law Management and Humanities.
  • CRIN. (1996, 12 10). M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu. Retrieved from The CRIN Case Law Database:
  • Tripathi, S. (2019, June 13). Judicial View on Child labour. Retrieved from ipleaders:
  • U.S Department of Labor. (2020). 2020 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor: India. U.S Department of Labor.
  • UNICEF. (n.d.). Child labour and exploitation. Retrieved May 20, 2023, from

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Aditya Kumar
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