Child Labour Conventions of I.L.O.-Indian Context
After almost two decades, Government of India decided to ratify I.L.O.(International Labour Organisation)’s two conventions which protects child against child labour.
What is I.L.O.
- It was created as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice.
- The driving forces for ILO’s creation arose from security, humanitarian, political and economic considerations.
- ILO, the only tripartite U.N. agency, brings together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member States
- Mandate: to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.
Conventions of ILO- International labour standards are legal instruments drawn up by the ILO’s constituents (governments, employers and workers). They are either:
- Conventions – legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states or
- Recommendations – serve as non-binding guidelines
The ILO’s Governing Body has identified eight conventions considered as fundamental principles and rights at work
- Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention
- Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention
- Forced Labour Convention
- Abolition of Forced Labour Convention
- Minimum Age Convention
- Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention
- Equal Remuneration Convention
- Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention
India decides to ratify two important conventions
Convention 182- On worst forms of child labour
- This calls for need to formulate legislation for prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour.
- Adopted by ILO in 1999
Convention 138- On minimum Age Employment
- Minimum age for employment should not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling (14 years of age in India’s case).
- Adopted by ILO in 1973
They are two of the eight core labour conventions
Child exploitation in India
- Child Labour is the practice of having children engage in economic activity, on a part- or full-time basis. The practice deprives children of their childhood and is harmful to their physical and mental development.
- Around 9.8 million children are officially out of school and from those 4.3 million children are part of labour activities.
- Child labour has propelled vicious cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
- It is also the basis of organised crimes such as human trafficking, terror and drug mafia.
Challenges faced and changes made:
- Main bottleneck in ratifying conventions 182 and 138 was addressing forced or compulsory recruitment of children and raising age of employment in hazardous occupations from 14 to 18 years.
- However, when GoI passed Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016 prohibiting the employment of children up to 14 years of age, and children up to 18 years of age in hazardous occupations, it was imperative to ratify convention 182 and 138.
The decision to ratify the convention and passing of child labour bill makes India’s intent clear of not tolerating the exploitation of children any longer.
The government will now take immediate and effective measures to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour:
- Child slavery (including the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage, and forced recruitment for armed conflict)
- Child prostitution and their use in pornography
- Use of children for illicit activities such as drug trafficking
- Exposure of children to any hazardous work which is likely to harm their health, safety or morals.
Under the provisions of Convention 182 and 138, there is no fixed deadline by which India has to eliminate worst forms of child labour.
- There have been concerns raised by many regarding the kind of ‘amendment’ made in CLPRA Act, 1986.
- There seems to be still lack of national commitment in abolishing all forms of child labour as the amendment in the law provides for employment of children under 14 years in ‘family enterprise’.
- Though the condition of working is only outside ‘school hours’, it is bound to affect child’s health as well as learning aptitude as the child will be forced to work and earn income.
- A new category of adolescents (14-18 years) has been created who can be employed in ‘non-hazardous’ occupations.
- Thus, the child has to work anyways and contribute economically to the family without focussing solely on his education and development.
- The amendments made merely to comply with international conventions is not the way forward. There has to be complete elimination of child labour as children from poor and marginalised sections, especially Dalits, are still in danger of being deprived of both the joys of childhood and their constitutional right to education.
This is a leap of India and its children to a much better society as this decision will have path-breaking impact on the lives of those who are forced to remain on the margins and are subject to exploitative conditions. These laws and conventions should assist the implementing institutions in eliminating all forms child labour. However, ending child labour requires language of compassion and humanity that would help accelerate the global movement against childhood exploitation. Increased moral courage, public concern, social empathy, political will and the implementation of resources invested in the development and protection of children are inevitable to eliminate child labour.
Thus, to achieve great reforms, the government, people and other stakeholders have to move in one direction with sincere efforts and dedication to change the prevailing circumstances.
It is crucial to engrain in mind that investment in children is an investment in future.