A Guide to Causes of Child Labour in India

Child labour is the practice of engaging children in economic activities. This practice deprives an individual of his/her childhood and harms physical and mental development. Child labour is both a social and economic problem.

The causes of child labour are multidimensional; the causes are unlimited. The problem is a global problem and is not limited to one problem.

Definition of child labour

The employment of a child in any industry or household activity is known as child labour. The Child And Adolescent (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, defines ‘Child’ as an individual who is yet to attain the age of 14 years of age.

As defined by the International Labour Organisation, child labour is deliberate employment depriving a person their childhood. Such work denies the child from attending schools and education. Such education also deprives children of childhood. According to the International Labour Organization, a child below the age of 14 does not develop socially, physically, or morally.

According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the child is considered to be labour when:

  • The age of the child is between 5 to 11 years. He works for 1 hour or has worked for at least 28 hours in a week for the activity.
  • When the age of the child is between 12 to 14 years, he should have worked for 14 hours of economic activity or 42 house of household work in a week, to be considered child labour.

Child labour issue

Child labour is a eggregious problem prevalent globally. The extent of such labour may vary. Child labour destroys the lives of children both mentally and physically. The leading cause of child labour appears to be poverty. Child labour is a social problem as the country’s future are the children.

Although many laws have been enacted, these laws have been inefficient in curbing the problem of child labour. The statistical report published in 2017 revealed that India is one of the countries in which the number of children engaged in child labour is large. The report revealed that almost 33 million children were employed as labour in India.

Causes of child labour

The causes of child labour are as follows:

  • Poverty:

    Poverty is one of the primary reasons for child labour and is also a major cause of social issues. Poor families in India consider children to be a helping hand for the parents. The child typically is sent to work to support the family. In developing countries, mitigating child labour is difficult because of the high number of incidences.

  • Previous debts:

    Generally, people obtain loans from local money lenders at high-interest rates due to poverty. People work day and night to make their children work to pay back such an amount to pay off such loans.

  • Professional needs:

    Some industries require soft and delicate touch. In such workplaces, adults may be perceived to be incapable of performing the tasks. Thus, children who can work for them are employed as child labour. The child can be employed at comparatively lower wages than an adult. Therefore, industries cut the cost of production and increase the profit by engaging in child labour.

  • Bonded labour:

    It is a practice in which an employer gives high-interest loans to workers employed at low wages to pay off debt. As defined by the Supreme Court of India, bonded labour is interpreted as the payment of wages less than the prevailing market wages and legal minimum wages. In bonded labour, peasants from economically disadvantaged communities are forced to work for their landlords. Even after enacting several laws banning such slavery, bonded labour is a significant cause of child labour.

  • Domestic help:

    Educated, wealthy families typically employ children at very low payment rates for completing their household work. Parents of such children send their wards to work for rich people in the hope that their child would live a better life and earn wages. Rich families keep such children at their homes to take care of their home, perform household chores, and manage their children.

  • Child sex workers:

    Children, especially girls, are forced to work as prostitutes after they attain puberty. A prospective employer promises the parents of the girl child and the girl a glamorous job that will help her earn a high income.

  • Forced begging:

    Poverty-stricken families who cannot afford educating their children force them to beg on the roads and earn their living. Parents may even mutilate their children to gain the sympathy of the public and earn more.

  • Child trafficking:

    Children are typically purchased or sold for sexual exploitation.

Consequences of child labour in India

Child labour is a social problem that directly causes many other problems in society. A child working as labour in any industry may have many issues as an adult. Such children are prone to diseases at a very young age and suffer throughout their lives. Children generally facie cuts, fractures, and burns may appear benign. However, such injuries can be more vital at the subsequent stage of their life and cause dangerous diseases.

A child may be deprived of basic needs in early childhood. Sometimes, such children may not even have access to proper food, clothing, or medical treatment. When working at the early stage of child growth, they are prone to physical abuse that includes beating, which may lead to physical deformity.

Child labour also affects the country’s economic welfare to a great extent. Therefore, child labour deprives a child of education, which decreases the country’s educated workforce and skilled workers, which causes considerable losses in the long run.

Child labour laws in India

Child labour is a major social problem in India. The Government of India enacted the following laws to overcome child labour and prevent child exploitation:

  1. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948
  2. The Plantation Labour Act, 1951
  3. The Mines Act, 1952
  4. The Merchant Shipping Act, 1958
  5. The Indian Factories Act, 1948
  6. The Child and Adolescent (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
  7. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act, 2000
  8. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
  9. Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933
  10. Beedi And Cigar Workers (Condition and Regulation) Act, 1986

These acts lay the provision of labour and protect the rights of children and adult labourers working in the industry. Other than this legislation, even the Constitution of India prohibits child labour. The constitutional provision that protects the rights of the child are:

  • Article 21: This article deals with the Right to Life and Personal Liberty.
  • Article 21A: This article provides The Right to Education.
  • Article 24: This article prohibits children (below the age of 14) from getting employed in factories.


Child labour is an egregious social evil that is prevalent globally. The government of India takes various measures to curb the causes of child labour. The major causes of child labour should be addressed to solve these problems and requires society and government to take collective measures to cure such issues in the country. A child belongs to the school, not the workplace. If employers develop a conscience, then this social evil can be addressed.

FAQs related to child labour

What is child labour?

Child labour is the exploitation of the child by making them work in industry, household, or other activities that deprive them of their childhood.

What are the major causes of child labour?

The major causes of child labour are as follows:

  • Slavery
  • Child trafficking
  • Poverty
  • Sexual activities
  • Forced labour

Who is a Child?

A child can be any person below the age of 14 years.

Measures to stop child labour in India?

Following measures can be undertaken to prevent child labour in India:

  • Spread awareness
  • Strict laws that provide severe punishment for employing children as labour
  • Encouraging a child to study
  • Supporting nongovernmental organisations that save children from being exploited