After nearly 59 years of Independence and over a decade after India became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Child Rights, our children continue to be the most neglected segment. Statistics reveal that India has 17 million child labourers — the highest in the world. Lack of awareness about the basic rights of a child has led to easy violation of laws meant to protect and empower children. In homes, on the streets and in sweatshops, children are being exploited by the thousands.

Where do these children work?

Over half of the working children (54%) are in agriculture, and most others are employed either in construction (15.5%) or in household work (18%). About 5% are in manufacturing jobs, and remaining (about 8%) are scattered across other forms of employment. The table below provides a gender-wise breakup of working children, and their schooling status. Please note that the data are for children in the age group 5-14 years.


About one half of India’s 230 million children ages 6-14 do not attend school, and qualify as child labourers. For many, poverty, lack of awareness among parents, inadequacy of school facilities and teachers, ineffective enforcement of child labour laws block access to education. But many children work because they are lured by employers ‘false promises of endless gifts and trips to the movies. Others are bonded to employers by their parents’ debt. And some are simply kidnapped and taken away to their jobs. All are stripped of their childhood for their cheap, obedient labour

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