Covid-19 has a differential impact on society which needs to be acknowledged. In India, Reverse migration has pushed hundreds of children to work and are under risk. Lockdown has forced many families to walk back to their villages and homes and children have to even walk back with their adults so they may be forced to work.
Child Labour in India
As per the 2011 census data, India alone is a home for 10.13 million child labourers between the age group of 5- 14 years and if compared to the other year’s census data, India in 2011 has witnessed a 20% decrease from 2001.
There is a decrease in the rural child Labour data from 11.3 million in 2001 to 8.1 million in 2011 but in urban areas, the figures have increased to 2 million in 2011 (as per the census) from 1.3 million in 2001.
As per the ILO data in 2016 of the 152 million children working worldwide between the ages of 5-17 years, India alone has 23.8 million children working.
Deprived of Education, Children are being Enforced in Labour
The Covid -19 situation has intensified the situation. Reverse migration has forced many children to move back with their families to their home towns due to the loss of income and jobs. Several families have been displaced and had to set up camps in midways at unknown places with limited resources and no means to reach their home, their children are at risk. Without adequate credit, savings, and financial support, these families had no option than to put their children in the workforce to aid survival.
Also, the children are being enforced in child labour due to school closures. As many families have lost income due to job loss and have reverse migration with their children. As these children who already face barriers in accessing education does not have adequate resources to take online classes or left with limited means of education are left with no education. This further will led students to discontinue their studies even after normalcy and there is a probability that many of them will get involved in child labour to support their families.
Even the situation has the worst effect on the small and medium businesses the most. The millions of workers have returned or migrated back to their hometown and now the small and medium businesses and factories are facing a labour shortage of skilled labour. After the lockdown for their survival and revival many small and medium businesses are looking for cheap labourers. Many of them will opt for hiring children to replace their skilled and costly labourers.
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India’s Move to Reduce Child Labour
India, under Sustainable development goal 8.7 has committed to ending child labour in all its forms by 2025.
Driving this government has also launched ‘Operation Muskaan’ and is one of the successful campaigns. The campaign is successful especially in states like Telangana where large numbers of children are rescued every year.
In 2017, the Ministry of Labour and employment launches a PENCIL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) portal for reporting child labour cases. So far it has rescued more than 1.7 million children.
The government has also revised the Child Labour Act and approved the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act and many other campaigns have been launched.
Steps Need to Take
Millions of children who could be the victims need immediate support from the states and communities. The state government could reach out to various NGOs working for children and can engage with them at every stage of response.
The coordinative policy efforts may be taken to provide employment to informal sectors which in turn will provide income support and may reduce the probability of a child being made enter the workforce.
The government may ask schools to give relaxation in school fees and labour inspection at factories and law enforcement could be adopted.
Though the government has adopted various measures but requires more strong strategies to protect these children.
Sources: THE WIRE, WION, Times of India