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HOW PANDEMIC PUSHED MORE CHILDREN TOWARDS CHILD LABOUR!

The condition of working children and child labour has always been worse in India and concerned by every responsible citizen of India, but the pandemic resulted in pushing several more children into child labour, including its worst forms like those in hazardous industries.

During the two waves of Covid-19 in India, millions of men and women lost their jobs or saw their income reduced, many of whom have insecure jobs and rely on daily wages. Staff from child welfare organisations told us that this has had a spiralling effect on children.

Households that have been cooped up due to national and now state-specific lockdowns are frequently unhappy places. 

LEGISLATIONS: ROLE AND EFFECTIVITY

Even our constitution, in its Article 24 states that no individual or child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine, thus barring their employment in any hazardous act or event.

Also, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 ascertains that any individual who is under the age of 14 years is considered to be a child and thereby restricts the children from engaging in any possible occupation, while restricts the child below 18 years from indulging in any hazardous process or occupation and refer to every individual in this age group as an ‘Adolescent’.

Also, the act implements a fine over anyone who appoints or makes the child or adolescent work in above-mentioned circumstances. According to the 2011 census, the enactment of the mentioned act has worked efficiently in bringing the count of child labours down to 1.1 million.

And, the states Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh reported the maximum number of cases of child workers during the census period. However, it might not present the straight and actual extent of the concerned issue as most of the cases go unreported and unrecognized. 

Challenges and hurdles are contained in the implication of many certain laws and such a challenge is continued to negate the Child Labour Act.

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The number of hazardous occupations, where are children and adolescents are not allowed to work, had declined from the count of 83 to only three and those under the age of 14 are still able to be employed in family enterprises and business which might result in keeping them away from educational purposes and academics.

Herein, the list of hazardous occupations for children from 83 to three includes just mining, explosives, and occupations mentioned in the Factory Act, which implicate the idea of working in chemical mixing units, cotton farms, brick kilns, among others have been dropped. 

SIGNIFICANT REPORTS: ANALYSIS

A report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF warns that 9 million additional children are on the verge of being pushed into the trait of child labour by the end of the year 2022 globally and as an ever-darker result of the pandemic.

In India, the closure of academic institutions and financial crisis by vulnerable families, triggered by the arrival of the pandemic has likely pushed a greater number of individuals into poverty and thus, resulting in an effective increase in the count of child labours and unsafe migration.

International Labour Organization (ILO) has also issued a report which signifies those cases of child labour has decreased by 38% globally in the last decade. However, a count of over 152 million children still falls in the grip of this social evil.

And, there is an enormous number of child workers rescued from the grip of child labour. As stated in the report, 47,635 children were rescued in the year 2017-2018; 50,284 in the year 2018-2019; 54,894 in 2019-2020 and 58,289 in the year 2020-21, which marks a spark of improvement in rescuing children from the web of child labour.

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Also, about 10.1 million is the estimated amount of rescued child workers in India which includes 5-14 and 14-18 age groups respectively. And, 247 million children have had no access to education over the past year due to pandemic, who are underprivileged and lack a proper means to get educated and civilized.

And several individuals among the formerly mentioned group falls into the forced labour practice or rather child labour.

Although, the trend has been decreased by 38% globally in the past decade according to the data of the International Labour Organization. But over 152 million children are still in the grip of this social evil and its eradication stands out to be one of the sustainable goals of the UN, which ascertains the degree of this prominent issue and its nature too.

The progress to end the practice of child labour had stalled for the very first time in the last two decades and accordingly to the ILO and UNICEF’s report Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020: Trends and the Road Forward.

Also, job losses and large scale unemployment granted in the tenure of a pandemic have put an additional nine million children at the risk of being forced into child labour by the end of 2022 globally.

ROLE OF NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION:

Cases of child labour and child marriage have doubled in villages of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana where non-profit Child Rights and You (CRY) and its partner organisations work, John Roberts, programme head for southern India, told IndiaSpend. CRY works in 19 states in India.

CHALLENGES: TO UPROOT POVERTY

One of the biggest challenges in eradicating child labour is Poverty and such a risk has even got increased because of the reverse mitigation during the pandemic as there has been an exodus of migrant workers, who returned to their respective villages and in immense importance, their children started working to help the family.

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And due to the lack of migrant workers in the urban areas, the employment and demand of the child labours would surely touch heights, implicating a rise in the scale of risks. Several states in India have also tweaked the labour laws which don’t make it compulsory to inspect firms with less than 50 workers therein and it would certainly lead to child labour cases going unreported. 

TAKING ACTION AGAINST CHILD LABOUR: 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend five actions to get things back on track. These are the following:

1. Universal child benefits and increased social protection for all.

2. More free, high-quality education to encourage children to return to school.

3. More work for adults so that parents aren’t forced to rely on their children to supplement their income.

4. Abolition of harmful gender norms and discrimination that contribute to the growth of child labour.

5. In rural areas, investment in structures and systems such as child protection, agricultural development, and public services. 

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore says, “We urge governments and international development banks to prioritise investments in programmes that can get children out of the workforce and back into school, as well as in social protection programmes that can help families avoid making this choice in the first place.”

CONCLUSIVE REMARKS: 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are working on a simulation model to examine the impact of COVID-19 on child labour around the world. In 2021, new global estimates on child labour will be published.

Conclusively, Schools; not workplaces, are where children belong. Child labour deprives children of their right to attend school and perpetuates poverty intergenerationally. Child labour is a significant impediment to education, affecting both attendance and academic performance.

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