Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

Child Labour and Employment Relations Legislation in India

Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

Child Labour and Employment Relations Legislation in India

Article excerpt

Introduction

Globalisation, the present process of becoming global (Albrow and King 1990), has provided a new dimension to the existence of child labour. In the new world economy, profits from child labour have become embedded in large scale international trade (Smith and Borocz 1995). In the twenty first century, the bounties of the cyber age make little difference to a child working long hours for wages under the supervision of an unreasonable employer.

Columbia University economist Professsor Jagdish Bhagwati has highlighted the booming economy of India, and has argued that economic 'take-off' will raise general living standards more rapidly, if labour markets are deregulated (Bhagwati 2004a). According to Bhagwati, the annual growth rate of 8% in India will create a 'trickle down' or 'push up' effect, and that it is attributable to the economic reforms introduced in 1991 (Bhagwati 2004a). Bhagwati acknowledges that globalization has been the cause of several social evils, but argues that it could often lead to greater general prosperity in an underdeveloped nation such as India, resulting ultimately in reduced child labour, increase literacy and even enhancement in the economic standing of women (Bhagwati 2004b). India is the third largest economy in the world and it has a large intellectual and educated class, which is able to export its services (Bhagwati 2004a). Though this new class of intellectuals have contributed towards India's economic transition, the fruits of economic prosperity have not reached the poorer sections of the society and have had little impact on the labour of children belonging to the lowest and the poorer sections of society. Despite the economic prosperity and the efforts of the government to child labour, even in the year 2006 the issue remains of great concern. Child labour is not an issue that can wait for the benefits of growth to 'trickle down'. With each passing year that a child's protection and care is delayed, a new stage in the child's development is compromised. The treatment meted out to a child in its early stage of development and the type of education it receives, reflect directly on an adult. Behind the treatment of children lie forces which have a direct bearing on their future as responsible citizens, shaping the destiny of a nation

It is very important to note that child labour has continued since time immemorial and is rampant even in the year 2006. Economic transition has done little for the children who belong to the poorer sections of Indian society. A decade ago, child labour in India constituted a fourth of the child labourers in the world (Suvarchala 1992: 144). In the year 2005, 10,000 children still worked in the silk industry in Tamil Nadu for small wages of $3 to $4 a month (Foster 2005). Thousands of children were recently found stitching footballs in several villages in the state of Uttar Pradesh, while the World Soccer Cup was being witnessed by people all over the world (Bachpan 2006). This article provides a historical overview of child labour and attempts to regulate it in India. It argues the case, neither for deregulation nor for abolition, but for more effective regulatory controls, accompanying an increased focus on poverty reduction measures, particularly education.

Narratives of the impacts on children of 19th century British industrialisation are embedded in western consciousness--images of children worked for unlimited hours and homeless children living and sleeping in factories. It will be argued that in Britain, child labour was eliminated as a result of prohibitive legislation, supplementing the effects of economic growth. In India, the Constitution and six decades of prohibitive legislation have not extinguished child labour, but labour market deregulation on its own will be no more effective. In the present context of growth, the time is overdue to address the causes and effects of child labour, through the effective distribution of the benefits of growth and through more resolute enforcementof regulatory legislation. …

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