Child Labor in India: From Welfarist to Economic Perspective

Article excerpt

Child labor in India is a critical socioeconomic issue which generates interest among the international and national bodies to initiate appropriate policies to control it. The policy makers have mostly focused on the welfare aspects without looking into the important economic aspects. Both welfare and economic aspects are especially important in the context of a developing nation like India. In order to have effective policies to deal with, the problem of child labor, one needs to understand the factors influencing it. This paper studies the macro level indicators of the major factors influencing child labor incidence for the following four categories: male children in rural areas, female children in rural areas, male children in urban areas, and female children in urban areas. The effect of these factors differs across the four categories in this cross-sectional study covering 28 states and 7 union territories of the Indian federation. The results show that besides welfare aspects like educational and developmental factors, economic aspects like work force participation rate, poverty factors, and family factors show significant effect on child labor.

INTRODUCTION

High percentage of child labor is one the critical problems of most of developing nations and dealing with it emerged as a big challenge (Basu, and Ranjan, 2001). Many authors example, Bhukuth and Ballet, 2006) have pointed out that laws and policies child labor are inefficient and to deal with this malaise. In India, this is a critical social and economic problem more than 5% of the children in the group of 5-14 years are trapped under (according to Census of India, 2001 data), lhis problem increases because children are denied equal opportunities and rights> As a resuk| it has a negative effect on the growth of these chüdren and is a critical problem for the nation as a whole

Developed nations have continuously made demands and pressurized the developing nations to introduce strict mechanisms to control child labor (Diamond and Fayed, 1998; and Ranjan, 2001). This has led to the merging of trade issues with the child labor clauses (Nardinelli, 1992). Recent changes in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) dispute settlement procedures now provides powers to the WTO to enforce the provisions its members choose to adopt (Castle et al, 1997; and Basu, 1999). However, before planning the mechanisms to eradicate this problem of child labor from India and other developing nations, there is a need to analyze critically the forces that actually influence it.

This paper focuses on the child labor incidence and the factors affecting it. It is a cross-sectional study of all the Indian states and Union Territories (UT) using macro indicators to measure various factors. Earlier study (Maheshwari and Singh, 2008) found varying effect of the influencing factors across rural and urban population and also across male and female population. Chaudhri (1997a) found that various factors affect male and female child labor differently. This led us to study the factors influencing child labor in .more specific categories: male and female in rural areas and male and female in urban areas. This study is based on the premise that by understanding factors in specific categories, better policies can be formulated. Also on the basis of gender there are various factors that affect child labor incidence differently (Chaudhri, 1997a and 1997b).

CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND

There has always been lots of confusions related to the concept of 'child labor'. In Asian countries like India where cultural patterns are different from those in the developed nations, the problem is more complex (Castle et al, 1997; and Duraisamy, 1997). Partially, it is due to lack of clarity in the definition that the results of various studies on child labor do not completely concur with each other (Gayathri and Chaudhri, 2002). For Example, it is also said that if child labor in India is measured according to concepts used by developed nations then this figure will be over 100 millions. …