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World Day Against Child Labour

15th June, 2023 Economy

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  • Every year on June 12th, the World Day Against Child Labour is observed.

World Day Against Child Labour


  • The World Day Against Child Labour is an International Labour Organization (ILO)-sanctioned holiday first launched in 2002.
  • The World Day against Child Labour is a rallying cry for people, groups, and governments to take decisive action to end child labour and raise public awareness of its negative effects.


  • Child labour is still a major problem because it robs children of their childhood and innocence, especially in underdeveloped and impoverished countries.
  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) declared June 12 to be the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to raise awareness of this problem.


  • To draw constant attention to the issue of child labour and to revise and revisit our strategies to eliminate child labour.
  • To foster the worldwide movement against child labour.
  • To raise awareness and activism to prevent child labour.

ILO Ratification

  • World Day Against Child Labour was spurred by ratifications of ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment and ILO Convention No. 182on the worst forms of child labour.

2023 Theme

  • "Week of Action against Child Labour" is the theme for the 2023 World Day Against Child Labour.
  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) intends to start a week-long campaign to raise public awareness of the injustice of child labour and inspire people to take action.


  • The World Day Against Child Labour is of utmost significance because it aims to end child labour everywhere.
  • Every year on June 12, this event serves as an important reminder that countless children continue to endure abusive and hazardous working conditions.
  • The day is used to spread awareness about the harmful mental and physical problems faced by children forced into child labour, all over the world.

ILO’s Definition of Child Labour

  • Child labour — a form of modern slavery — includes any work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that harms their physical or mental development.
  • The practice includes, and is not limited to, trafficking, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and exploitation in armed conflicts. 12% of those in forced labour are possibly children, ILO notes.

Status of Child Labour: ILO Findings

  • Child trafficking manifests in the form of domestic labour, forced child labour across industries, and illegal activities such as begging, organ trade and commercial sex purposes.
  • Several reports since the 2020 lockdown have noted that the pandemic created a second crisis of child trafficking, with children being pushed into a vortex of “despair, disease and death.”
  • Estimates show that children account for one in every three detected victims of trafficking worldwide; this rises to one in two in low-income countries.

Global prevalence of child trafficking

  • Domestic work (21%)
  • Begging (10%)
  • Hospitality sector (7%)
  • Street and small-scale retail (6%)
  • Illicit activities (6%)
  • Agriculture (5%)
  • More than 40% of children trafficked were recruited by a family member or relative. (Source: Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative)
  • Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment.
  • In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health
  • Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls
  • 1 in 5 children in Africa is working in child labour

Child Labour in India


  • Eight children were trafficked every day in India n 2021 — for labour, begging and sexual exploitation — per data from the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
  • These numbers stood at 2,834 cases in 2018; 2,914 in 2019; 2,222 in 2020.
  • Out of the total 4,700 people trafficked in 2020, 1,377 were minor boys and 845 were minor girls.
  • 95% of the reported cases in 2019 were of internal trafficking.

Key Routes of sale of children

  • The sale of children happens across borders too, with key routes being India to Gulf States and South East Asian countries. One such practice happens in the name of ‘khadama’, where girls go to Gulf countries to work as housemaids.

Missing children

  • One child goes missing every eight minutes in India — with millions ending up in domestic slavery, sex work and forced labour.
  • These figures are a “gross underestimate” of the true extent since NCRB data only includes cases reported to each State and Union Territory’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit.
  • Cases often go unreported due to a lack of awareness about the modalities of trafficking, reluctance to seek police help and socio-economic deprivation. Moreover, less than 10% of the reported cases end up in convictions.

Status of Minor Girls

  • Minor girls in the age bracket 15-18 years are more vulnerable to trafficking, and believed to be in “greater demand” for the sex trade industry and domestic labour.
  • Poverty, hunger, and lack of work are the main reasons for this.
  • The caste and community-based discrimination and unfair treatment in rural areas are also at the root of this problem.

Children are at risk

  • Externalities such as the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict, and climate change catalyse precarity for children.
  • Children are at heightened risk of exploitation, especially since school closures have not only precluded many from access to education but also from a main source of shelter and nourishment.
  • Since their schools are closed, many children are increasingly online for learning and socialising.
  • This may make them more vulnerable to online sexual predators,” the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime noted in a report outlining COVID’s impact.

India has pledged to eliminate child labour by 2025.

What has India done so far?

  • The 2022 Trafficking in Persons report released by the U.S. Department of State categorises India as Tier 2 in terms of progress. It implies that India “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”
  • Note: Countries in tier 2 are those where a) the estimated number of victims is very significant or is significantly increasing and the country is not taking proportional concrete actions; b) the country has failed to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat rising cases.

“The government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting government officials for alleged involvement in trafficking crimes. Efforts to audit government-run or -funded shelters remained inadequate, and shortcomings in protection services for victims, especially children, remained unaddressed.”Trafficking in Persons report, 2022.

  • India doesn’t have a composite anti-trafficking law that addresses prevention, protection, rehabilitation and compensation of survivors. There are, however, separate regulations that address different crimes related to trafficking:

Laws governing anti-trafficking crimes in India

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (PITA) 

  • It is targeted at stopping immoral trafficking and sex work. It went through two amendments, in 1978 and 1986. Experts have criticised PITA for falsely presuming that all trafficking is done for sex work only, and say that it criminalises sex workers without providing sufficient legal recourse or scope for rehabilitation.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, 

  • It prohibits and penalises the act of child marriage. In August 2021, the NGO Save the Children warned of a rise in child marriage and sexual abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Telangana government, for instance, has intervened to stop 1,355 child marriages between April 2020 and March 2021 — a 27% increase from the previous year.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986

  • It prevents children from partaking in certain employments and regulates the conditions of work for children in other fields. In 2016, an amendment completely banned the employment of children below 14 years; adolescents aged 14-18 years are allowed to work in family-related businesses but not in fields that have “hazardous” working conditions.

The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976

  • It prohibits systems of labour where people, including children, work under conditions of servitude to pay off debt, and also provides a framework for rehabilitating released labourers.
  • However, India’s anti-trafficking efforts against bonded labour, in particular, have invited scrutiny: 22 States and Union Territories did not report identifying any bonded labour victims or filing a case under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, per a report.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015

  • It governs laws relating to children alleged and found to be in conflict with law.

The Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994 

  • It makes commercial dealing in human organs a punishable offence.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012

  • It seeks to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs)

  • India set up Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs) in 2007.
  • AHTUs are tasked with “addressing the existing gaps in the law enforcement response,” “ensuring a victim-centric approach which ensures the ‘best interest of the victim/ survivor’ and prevents ‘secondary victimization/ re-victimisation of the victim,” and developing databases on traffickers.
  • For instance, an official at an AHTU would take a survivor to the destination State to identify the place of crime and the traffickers. As of 2022, 768 AHTUs are functional in the country; 20 out of 36 States and Union Territories have met the target of setting units across all districts.
  • The penalty for trafficking one minor involves imprisonment, from 10 years to life, along with a fine. For trafficking more than one minor, the penalty is life in prison and a fine. 

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013

  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, revised Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with buying and selling of any person as a slave, to include the concept of human trafficking.
  • Two sections — 370 and 370A — form the framework “to provide a comprehensive definition of human trafficking and also provide for strict punishment,” the Ministry of Home Affairs noted.
  • However, the intervention has borne limited results: in 2016, India recorded a 25% increase in human trafficking cases in comparison to the previous year. India hasn’t yet amended Section 370 of the Penal Code to remove the requirement of “force, fraud, or coercion” to prove a child sex trafficking crime.
  • Moreover, experts caution that IPC’s Section 370 is centred around the punishment of offenders and neglects compensation and rehabilitation aspects.


  • Prevailing challenges include a lack of coordination among AHTUs and disjointed operations by State and Central Governments. There is no comprehensive programme for tackling trafficking, an absent witness protection framework (the victim is also the witness) and challenges in accessing compensation.
  • Section 357-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that governments have to “provide funds to compensate victims or their dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the [trafficking] crime and who require rehabilitation.”
  • 2020 study, however, found that some States had not created the fund; other States had falsified their data and these funds were severely underutilised. Victim compensation currently happens when a court recommends it or a trafficking victim files an application, but a lack of awareness about compensation and opaque documentation requirements bog down survivors.
  • This year’s World Day Against Child Labour emphasised social injustices as the root causes of child labour and trafficking. Per ILO estimates, globally only 1.1% of GDP is spent on social protection for children.

What is the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill? 

  • In 2016, a Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill was proposed, and a version of this Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in July 2018. The Bill lapsed in 2019 before it could be introduced in the Rajya Sabha due to the general elections.
  • The MWCD later published the Draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill in June 2021, with 11 chapters detailing measures to prevent, protect and rehabilitate victims. There are specified penalties for offences divided into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”. The Bill built upon its 2018 iteration: it widened the scope of “victims” to include transgender persons and others, introduced mechanisms for the prevention and rehabilitation of victims (such as providing shelter and food) and extended the framework to include cross-border trafficking cases.
  • There was a marked focus on making the justice-seeking process easier and more “victim-centric.” The Bill proposes district- and State-level “anti-trafficking units” with designated police officers and a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau which looks after investigations involving two or more States. Investigations are required to be completed within 90 days of the offender’s arrest, and there are appointed sessions courts for speedy trials — measures which could potentially address low conviction rates. The Bill, expected to be tabled in the parliament’s 2022 monsoon session, was not brought up.
  • While an improvement, the Bill glosses over pockets where trafficking happens (such as during disasters and conflicts, during which children are particularly vulnerable) and may overlap with pre-existing laws, activists say.
  • They also say the Bill violates the Juvenile Justice Act, for it places the “burden of proof” on the offender (the child, in this case) rather than the prosecuting agency, as is the norm.

Way Ahead

  • While rehabilitation is included, its important to weave in community-based rehabilitation models allowing the greater agency to the individual.
  • There is also a need to revisit existing laws, such as the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) 1986 Act, to plug legal holes around the minimum working age.
  • Children between the ages of 14 and 18 are also vulnerable to exploitation; in domestic labour, people are “trafficked by placement agencies illegally operating in destination areas. These children and their family are lured, enticed, induced by agents citing a better future and education for them.
  • Civil societies have advocated for the need to cultivate awareness about different trafficking crimes, form targeted child protection schemes, provide survivors with psychological and emotional support systems during rehabilitation, and offer incentives to keep children in school.
  • Further, ILO said: The antidote to poverty-driven child labour is decent work for adults, so they can support their families and send their children to school, not to work.

Awareness is the key

  • Many parents in rural areas or from the slums are forced to make their children work to support their families.
  • Importantly, many of them are even unaware of the fact that child labour is banned in India.
  • Creating awareness about how child labour is bad and illegal among these people can help reduce the number of children doing labour work.

Creating income sources

  • More often poor financial condition is the reason why parents are forced to make their children work. Merely creating awareness is not going to solve the problem. To reduce child labour, it is necessary that their parents get employment.
  • Creatingjob opportunities for their parents will surely help in improving this situation.

Free education sources

  • Education is the right of every child. But due to lack of finances, many times children are forced to leave their studies halfway.
  • If free education is made available to children who are below the poverty line, they will go to school and hence will not have to work somewhere.

Awareness about law

  • Every adult Indian must make himself aware of the stringent laws regarding child labour in India so that you know when to take action.

Stakeholders must take responsibility

  • Governments must abide by internationally accepted agreements, companies must employ adults instead of children and – importantly – consumers must not buy goods produced by child labour.

Increased access to education

  • Removing children from child labour does not mean that they will automatically attend school. Schooling can be expensive, or of very poor quality, and so some parents think sending their children to work is the obvious alternative. Both large and smaller businesses can make their contribution by raising awareness about the importance of education in their workplaces, communities, industries or sectors.

Provide support for children

  • Children are also at greater health and safety risk in the workplace for a number of reasons:
  • Lack work experience – children are less able to make informed judgments.
  • Want to perform well – children are willing to go the “extra mile” without realising the risks.
  • Learn unsafe health and safety behaviour from adults.
  • Might not be carefully trained and supervised.

Improved Economic growth

  • As many as 7.8 million Indian children are forced to earn a livelihood even if they also attend school. Many of these children drift away from the path of education completely and get end up in child labour. This means a country has a lack of formally educated adults who can contribute to the process of nation-building and to the country’s economic growth.

Engaging with SDGs

  • We know that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, will only succeed if we work towards the goals together. The sub-Saharan African region is among those affected by situations of extreme poverty, state fragility and crisis, and by natural disasters and population displacements associated with global climate change, which in turn are known to heighten the risk of child labour.


Q. India has pledged to eliminate child labour by 2025. What is the status of Child Labor in India and globally? Shed light on the laws governing Child Labour in India and the associated challenges. Suggest measures to eradicate Child Labour from its root and cause.