Human Capital Issues

Child Labour: The Real Picture of Child Labour in India

That millions of children in India have to toil for more than 14 hours a day to supplement’s their family’s income is a glaring blot on a nation that is touted to become a superpower in the future. It is quite paradoxical that India being one of the major IT hubs in the world and a leading software exporter also has more than 60 million child laborers. A considerable majority of these 60 million who are aged less than 14 years have to toil real hard just to keep their body and soul together. A considerable proportion of the child workforce belongs to the 4-5 age brackets.  India is home to approximately 30% of the entire world’s child workforce.

 Child Labour in India: Some key facts and figures

The country has been grappling with the social problem of child labour since long. This complicated and thorny problem has far-reaching repercussions on all working children. At the very outset, it grossly violates the basic rights that a child has access to including but not limited to basic education, minimum standard of living, personal development, leisure activities, and last but not the least, immunity from abuse.

Most of the working children in India do not have access to even the most elementary of sustenance needs like food, shelter, clothing, basic sanitation, and primary education. One finds millions of children working in the unorganized sector including agriculture and farming with their allied segments silk industry, carpet weaving industry, hotels and restaurants, roadside dhabas and tea-stalls, firecracker units and so on.

They work in unhealthy and squalid environments for long hours often throughout the week that drains them both physically and mentally. On top of that, they suffer exploitation at the hands of their employers. A majority of them hardly earn 500 INR per month, and most often they’re paid in kind (offered food and shelter).

Know the Labour Wages in India

Statistics of the total workforce belted out by the different agencies vary. According to government estimates, the total number of child workers is 20 million. NGOs put the figure at more than 60 million. However, according to some estimates, the figure is alleged to be 100 million. This last figure includes all the children who’ve dropped out of school to work as labourers.

India would approximately need $ 760 billion and about 2 decades to completely eradicate the problem of child labour. At the same time, the benefits that’d accrue by way of improved wellbeing and better education for all child labourers will amount to nearly $ 4 trillion. Roughly 80% of the child workforce lives in the rural outback engaged in agricultural and farming activities, fisheries, livestock rearing, husbandry, and forestry. About 9% of the workforce is engaged in the manufacturing and services sectors. The total number of working children aged 14 and under exceeds the population of the US.

% of children in entire population engaged as labourers (grouped according to age)

Age Bracket199120012006

Industry-wise percentage distribution of child labour force under 16 (small-scale service and production units) in 2005

Industrial Segment% engaged in units with fewer than 5 labourers% engaged in units with fewer than 10 labourersTotal number of children working in the industrial segment
Agriculture & Allied Sectors-- 8,451,851
Fishing and Fisheries-100 21,676
Mining29.6734.27 22,482
Real Estate97.72 97.7245,567
Financial Intermediaries10010053
Transport & Storage70.218593,632
Education 65.0599.6814,283
Private households/homes100100209,458
Social Work and Healthcare1001003,177
Other Communities/Social94.0197.03186,249
Public Administration---
Total of all sectors8793.1212,311,224


Last Updated: 31/10/2013