Child Labour In India - UPSC Essay Preparation For IAS Exam

Child labour essay for UPSC


Yes indeed. This holds true for many of us who have lived our innocence. However, this isn’t the reality for the ‘not so privileged’.

Child Labour is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. 

In India, child labour has been one of the biggest concerns for the authorities to overcome. In this article, we shall discuss the causes and effects of child labour in the country. This is an important topic from the IAS Exam perspective. 

Looking for study material to ace the upcoming UPSC CSE??  Refer to the links below and start your IAS exam preparation now:

Child Labour in India

As per a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in India, there are 10.1 million working children between the age of 5 to 14 years. This data was based on the Census of 2011. 

As per Census 2011, the total child population in India in the age group (5-14) years is 259.6 million. Of these, 10.1 million (3.9% of total child population) are working, either as ‘main worker’ or as ‘marginal worker’. In addition, more than 42.7 million children in India are out of school. 

However, there has been a decline of 2.6 million children affected by child labour between the Census 2001 and 2011. Given below are the statistics for the same:

Year Percentage of working children (5-14) Total number of working children

(5-14) (in millions)

Rural  Urban Total Rural  Urban Total
2001 5.9 2.1 5.0 11.4 1.3 12.7
2011 4.3 2.9 3.9 8.1 2.0 10.1

As per the Census of 2011, there are five major states in India that constitute 55% of the total number of child labour in the country. Refer to the table below:

States  Percentage Numbers (In million)
Uttar Pradesh  21.5 2.18
Bihar  10.7 1.09
Rajasthan  8.4 0.85
Maharashtra  7.2 0.73
Madhya Pradesh  6.9 0.70

To know in detail about the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a United Nations agency that provides developmental and humanitarian aid to children worldwide, candidates can visit the linked article. 

The definition of Child Labour must be seen in line with the different categories of the same instead of using it in a sweeping manner:

  • Child Labour: Those children who are doing paid or unpaid work in factories, workshops, establishments, mines and in the service sector such as domestic labour.
  • Street Children: Children living on and off the streets, such as shoeshine boys, ragpickers, newspaper-vendors, beggars, etc.
  • Bonded Children: Children who have either been pledged by their parents for paltry sums of money or those working to pay off the inherited debts of their fathers.
  • Working Children: Children who are working as part of family labour in agriculture and in home-based work.
  • Children used for sexual exploitation: Many thousands of young girls and boys serve the sexual appetites of men from all social and economic backgrounds. Direct links between the commercial sexual exploitation of children and other forms of exploitative child labour are numerous.
  • Migrant children: India faces a huge challenge with “distress seasonal migration”. At worksites, migrant children are inevitably put to work. All evidence indicates that migrations are large and growing. The number of children below 14 years of age thus affected.
  • Children engaged in household activities: Apart from children who are employed for wages (either bonded or otherwise) as domestic help, there are a large number of children (especially girls) who are working in their own houses, engaged in what is not normally seen as “economic activity”. These children are engaged in taking care of younger siblings, cooking, cleaning and other such household activities. Further, if such children are not sent to school, they will eventually join the labour force as one of the above categories of child labour.

Also, refer to the following links for UPSC preparation:

National Child Labour Project Scheme  Juvenile Justice Act
Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
Child Rights in India Child Rights in India

Causes of Child Labour in India

Discussed below are the main causes of child labour in India:

  • Over Population – The population of the country is more in comparison to the job opportunities available
  • Illiteracy – This is one of the biggest causes. If a child is unable to gain education due to financial or social reasons, he/she is more likely to opt for working at wages and helping the family
  • Poverty – To overcome the financial crisis and poverty, parents are forced to make their children work for money
  • Urbanization is another cause
  • Orphans – New provisions should be made by the authorities for orphans so that they can be educated and avoid working at a young age for their own livelihood and survival
  • Adult unemployment – Until the adults are not employed, they cannot educate their offsprings which ultimately leads to child labour
  • Debt trap – In cases, a financial backlog or debt also is a reason which leads to child labour
  • Cheap labour – The labour salary is minimal, thus, to increase the family income, they are forced to let their children work

If the above-mentioned points are taken care of by the concerned authorities, child labour iin India can be reduced. 

Acts for Children Welfare in India

Child labour is a matter on which both the Union Government and state governments can legislate. A number of legislative initiatives have been undertaken at both levels. The major national legislative developments include the following:

There are a few Non-Government Organisations like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, CRY, Pratham, etc., which also work for the welfare of the country. 

World Day against Child Labour 

World Day Against Child Labour was introduced in 2002 by the International Labour Organisation. It is celebrated on June 12th every year across the world. 

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the day was celebrated via a virtual campaign that was organised jointly by the Global March Against Child Labour and the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA). The theme for 2020 was “Protect children from child labour, now more than ever”.

Although India has shown improvement in the statistics from the 2001 Census, yet there is a long way that needs to be travelled to completely eradicate child labour from the country. 

The Government must enforce stricter laws and punishment against child labour and primary education must be made free for all so that no one is deprived of education and knowledge. 

CSE aspirants can refer to the UPSC Syllabus at the linked article and accordingly start their preparation for the upcoming recruitment.

For any further exam updates, study material or preparation strategy, candidates can turn to BYJU’S for assistance. 

Frequently Asked Questions on Child Labour in India


Q 1. What is the age for child labour in India?

Ans. No child below the age of fourteen years can be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. This has also been stated in the constitution of the country.

Q 2. What are the causes of child labour?

Ans. There are many factors that lead to child labour in India. Given below are a few:

  • Illiteracy
  • Poverty
  • Population
  • Debt Trap
  • Lower Labour Pay Scale for Adults
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