Note: This topic is important for TISSNET
The exact amount of the COVID-19 pandemic’s influence on child labour has yet to be determined, but all indicators are that it will be severe because children will be unable to attend school and parents will be unable to find work.
However, the pandemic did not introduce all of the variables that contribute to child labour, most of them were already in place and were revealed or enhanced by it.
What the data reveal about a child’s overall development:
- As the world approaches the third decade of the twenty-first century, 152 million youngsters are still working, with 73 million of them doing dangerous jobs.
- According to a Rapid Survey on Children (2013-14) conducted jointly by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNICEF, less than half of children aged 10 to 14 years have finished elementary school. These are still obstacles we must conquer.
- According to the 2011 Census of India, there are 10.1 million working children in India between the ages of 5 and 14, with 8.1 million of them working in rural regions as cultivators (26 percent) and agricultural labourers (32.9 percent ).
- According to a Government of India poll (NSS Report, 2017-18), 95 percent of children aged 6 to 13 attend educational institutions (formal and informal), while 79.6% of those aged 14 to 17 attend.
- As a result, a substantial proportion of children in India continue to be vulnerable, with physical and psychological hazards to their growth.
- While statistics on enrolment/attendance percentages in India varies greatly, UNESCO estimates that 38.1 million children are “out of school” according to the 2011 Census (18.3 percent of total children in the age group of 6-13 years).
- Work performed may not seem to be immediately hazardous, but it may have long-term and severe effects for their education, skill acquisition, and thus their future chances of escaping the vicious cycle of poverty, insufficient education, and low-wage jobs.
In India, child labour has reduced during the last decade:
One encouraging piece of news is that child labour in India reduced from 2001 to 2011, demonstrating that the correct mix of legislative and programmatic initiatives can make a difference.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) of 2005, the Right to Education Act of 2009, and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme have opened the path for children to attend school and for rural households to have assured wage employment (unskilled).
The National Child Labour Project’s implementation focuses on concerted attempts to bring government initiatives closer together.
In 2017, the Indian government demonstrated its commitment to the eradication of child labour, especially those involved in hazardous jobs, by amending International Labour Organization Conventions Nos. 138 and 182.
Subsequent lockdowns have worsened and compounded the socio-economic challenges for BPL Children:
- Globally, child labour has decreased over the last decade, but estimates suggest that the rate of decline has dropped by two-thirds in the last four years.
- When planning India’s policy and programmatic approach during and after the new coronavirus pandemic, these positive and negative patterns must be taken into account.
- The pandemic’s economic contraction and lockdowns have impacted every Asian country, resulting in lower income for businesses and workers, many of whom labour in the informal economy.
- The enormous number of migrant workers who have returned has exacerbated the socioeconomic problems.
- Even before the pandemic, India’s economy was slowing and unemployment was soaring.
- Following lockdowns, the situation has gotten worse, putting the gains made in ending child labour in jeopardy.
- Children from low-income families are being driven to participate to the family income, putting them at danger of being exposed to exploitative work as a result of growing economic uncertainty, a lack of social protection, and a reduction in household income.
- Any form of forced labour is outlawed under Article 23 of the Indian Constitution.
- A youngster under the age of 14 cannot be employed to conduct any hazardous work, according to Article 24.
Challenges in education:
- According to the NSS Report No. 585, titled ‘Household Social Consumption on Education in India,’ only 24% of Indian households have access to the Internet in 2017-18, with 15% of rural households and 42% of urban households having access.
- According to the Annual Status of Teaching Report (ASER) 2020 survey, a third of all enrolled pupils received some type of learning materials from their teachers during the reference period (October 2020), indicating that a digital form of education was chosen.
- Children may drop out as a result of school closures and the problems of remote learning unless decisive and fast efforts are made.
- The ‘digital gap,’ which many schools and educational institutions are transferring to online platforms for further learning, is a hurdle that India will have to overcome in the coming years.
Solution to address the digital divide in Education:
The obstacles are numerous and considerable, but they are not insurmountable provided all essential parties are committed and the correct balance of policy and programmatic initiatives is in place.
- We can make a difference by forming strategic alliances and collaborations with the government, companies, trade unions, community-based organisations, and child labour families to rebuild better and faster.
- While we reaffirm our commitment to safeguard children from harmful forms of work, we also stay focused on mitigating the pandemic’s effects.
- We need a strong alliance to pave the path to eradicating all types of child labour by 2025, as agreed upon by countries throughout the world in Sustainable Development Goal 8.7.
- India now lacks the necessary infrastructure to digitally educate its kids. If we are to narrow the digital gap, we need a stronger infrastructure to offer pupils with constant Internet access and smart devices.
- Other countries’ lessons can be instructive, and similar efforts can be implemented based on state capabilities and partnership with private service providers.
- India can take advantage of this opportunity by producing digital equipment for educational purposes, which serves the dual purposes of promoting indigenous manufacturing and bridging the digital gap.
- Internet services in India are also among the cheapest in the world, therefore Internet provision will be less expensive.
- Given the demand for digital literacy, both manufacturing and service supply in this e-education arena have the potential to make a significant difference.