THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE CHILD MIGRANT LABOUR
Updated: Mar 14
The purpose of writing this research paper is to understand the concept of child labour, addition to that, it also includes the impact of COVID-19 on the same. There are a lot of migrant child labourers in India, this work also provides an insight as to what are the plausible reasons for which these children are willing to move all together to another city or town leaving their parents behind in their place to work as laborers. Here we will also see some solutions that can be taken into consideration as measures as to how to decrease the rate of child labour practices in India. This paper also provides some statical data on various spheres of exploitation of children.
Let us understand migrant labours first, a ‘Migrant Labour is casual and unskilled labor who move about systematically from one region to another offering their services on a temporary (usually on a seasonal basis). Migrant labours in various forms are found in South Africa, The Middle East, Western Europe, North America and India’.1 According to the migrant workmen act of 1979, workmen mean “any establishment to do any skilled, semi-skilled, manual, supervisory, technical or clerical work for heir or reward, whether the terms of employment be expressed or implied but does not include any such person who: -
· is employed mainly in managerial or administration capacity.
· being employed in a supervisory capacity draws wages exceeding five hundred rupees per mensem or exercise either by the nature of the duties attached to the office or by the reason of the power vested in him, functions mainly of a managerial nature”.2
When we say migrant child labour all the above-stated definitions will automatically include the child labour norms and characteristics it as a whole becomes a really sensitive topic to work upon. Child labour, when we break the terminology, it breaks into child and labour. A child is a young human who has been gifted with a very unique quality of innocence (here children include adolescents as well). They are so easily gullible and some people or institutions use this quality of children for fulfilling their own selfish needs. Such people tempt such children by making them dream about the flawless future, luxuries, benefits which they are never going to get by living with their parents. People also agree to such schemes provided by these people and agree to send their children with them. This is also because of a lack of awareness in them about the consequences.
Not all works done by children can be classified as a child labour practice. If children of the age group between 5-13 are seen or recorded doing a derogatory work or any work that seems inappropriate for a child of such tender age to do is definitely a child labour practice whereas the children of age group between 14-18 are allowed to work under the rectification of the two key International Labour Organization conventions on child labour3 that provides some exceptions, such as children between the age group of 14-18 are not allowed to work under hazardous circumstances or occupations such as mining, construction, chemical factories, working around inflammable substances etc as defined by the Factory Act of 1948.4 It should be noted that the Constitution of India prohibits child labour in hazardous industries but not in non-hazardous industries as a fundamental right under the ‘article 24’ of The Constitution of India5. Employment of a child below 13 years of age is a cognizable offense.
Let us start from the beginning, the origin of child labour in India. It started from the time when East India Company established itself at the Andhra coast of Bay of Bengal, after defeating the ruler there (Siraj-ud- Daula). Subject’s lands were snatched, they had no means to earn a living. Then the company started to employ Indian people for fulfilling the requirement of labour workforce. They did not provide them legitimate wages and used them like animals. Women and children were also included in these workforces. Mostly the labourers were the residents of Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, the trend still continues workers still migrate from these regions into big cities to work. According to the census of 20116 Maharashtra has the largest number of migrant labours in India.
In India, the child labours are practiced in various forms such as daily waged labours at factories, waiters at motels, working as agricultural labours, working as domestic help in houses. There are many ways because of which children are made to migrate and they are abused mentally, physically.
Children are one of the most vulnerable groups of society, hence some bad elements of our society try to tempt them and pull them towards migrating with them to a completely different setup. And their task becomes so easy because such children have a very weak economic as well as academic background. Hence, their parents are unable to see the man-hole where they are pushing their children, from where there is no coming back. These people convince the parents and children for migration by first demoralizing them by telling them about the present situation of the family in a more derogatory manner. Especially in times of pandemic, the economic conditions have become even worse, the economic situations are miserable. They convince them in this situation the family will be starving and they will not have enough money to take care of their children (in villages, generally people have more than 3 children in each family). They then make them fantasize about the best future for their children that they can ever imagine, they tell them about the benefits that their child could enjoy which would include sending them to good schools for quality education, giving them proper food and a place to live and in return, the child will have to perform some pity tasks of the household/office. And clearly, after taking them they exploit these children and distribute them among the rackets and send them to a ferocious place where they are forced to work like animals. In the name of providing them proper lodging services, they keep them in a filthy dormitory where they can easily catch life-taking disease.
"Research conducted by CRY child labours in India had experienced some remarkable trends. The decade 2001 to 2011 so in an overall decrease in working children in the age group of 10 to 14 years contributed to this working child between 5 to 9 years increased by 37% of particular concern in the whopping rise in child labour in the age group of 529 in urban areas the number of working boys grew by 154% whereas the number of working girls’ group by 240%.
At this present time, India still has a workforce of over 1 crore children. But there can be seen a positive trend i.e., decrease in the rate of child labour by 2.2 % per year over the last decade. child labour as a practice is more prevalent in the urban areas as people tend to migrate from the perineal areas to the core areas in the search of work. The rate of people migrating to the urban centers for the search of work has increased by 53 % over 2001 – 2011’.7
Migration of child labour is one of the core causes of the urbanized child labour practice i.e. the scope of children being exploited under various situations be it as labourers, workers, prop of releasing frustration, or a subject of abuse. In urban areas, there can be seen the establishment of machinery-influenced factories, large-scale fertilizer houses, chemical industries which come under the hazardous8 work environment characterized by the International Labour organization where is a child in any situation is not allowed to work. what we should not forget that 3 out of 4 children in a rural household setup, works as a cultivator or waged labour in the agricultural sector. The exploitation of girl child labourers is also very much prevalent these days. People take little girls with them for taking care of their little toddlers so that they can smoothly enjoy their work-life balance. They promising them a good life and secure future by sending them to school providing the proper environment to study food and lodging but the truth is they're not given any such facilities rather they are kept busy with the domestic works and their treated nothing less than a house help. Little girls between the age group of 12 to 15 are given work loads of a mature lady and they obviously fail to do the job and face serious mental torture by the masters.
“ Let's take a key data collected by the child right and your organization.
* Every eleventh child is working in India between the the age group of 5 to 18
* Working children between the age group of 5 to 9 years is increased by 37%.
* One in five children in the age group of 5 to 18 in India is working.
* Open child labour has grown by more than 50%
* 154 percent increase in the number of working boys between the age group of 5 to 9 in urban areas.
* To 40% increase in the number of working girls between the age group of 5 to 9 in urban areas.
*80% of the children work as labourers in rural areas
*more than 50% of the child labours are connected to the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan Madhya Pradesh”.7
Census of India 2011 states that they are 10.1 million children between the age group of 5 to 14 out of the total to 259.64 million of them work as child labours in India.6The pandemic did send the migrant children back to the needed places but because of the inability of the perils to provide them with food and basic requirements the children had to again start working in the nearby places like farms and factories. simultaneously forcing the children out of schools so that they earn something and add to the family income. Therefore, this situation worsened the child labour problem that was already at its peak.
privilege children's now in this pandemic a taking virtual class but these under-privileged children are not even allowed to study anymore just because the parents are not at all aware of the perks of education, they don't understand that education is the only way that can take them out of this vicious cycle of poverty this pandemic has increased the rate of forced labours in the country, it is difficult to quote an empirical value because there are many cases that are not reported. Even before an outbreak of the pandemic them at it was difficult to attract the rural crowd towards school the government had to provide mid-day meals, uniforms books, bicycles, and many more facilities just to attract children to school and allowed the parents to incline their children wards into educational institutions.
There can be no doubt in the fact that child labour is disastrous and an ethically wrong practice and it should be banned strictly. Poverty is one prominent cause of child labour. Eradication of poverty and large-scale investment in education prioritizing adult employment will automatically put a check on child labour. Children have to work because their parents are incapable to earn a living. Alcoholism in the male members of the families in villages is very generalized, this led the older children to work.
To curb child labour understated a few suggestions that should be taken into consideration: -
* There should be a proper general public seminar conducted especially in villages so that people should get the ideas of the truth where the children are going to work and what are the repercussions of that.
* The child labour laws need to be strictly implemented not only who employ such children should be severely punished but also, the parents of these children should face serious punishment for sending the children out to work in such hazardous situations.
* Government schools should provide quality education along with the ted talks on the perks of education, this is the only way that we can you attract children towards school?
*Government should also make education till graduation for every child compulsory and free. This will require more investment in the education sector of the country's income but this will ensure the future of the country is safe and secure.
*Increasing the working day limit from 100days provided by MANREGA to a minimum of 250 days and try to make the temporary employment permanent as much as possible.
1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/migrantlabour (definition of migrant labour)
2. https://clc.gov.in/clc/acts-rules/inter-state-migrant-workmen (Migrant Workmen Act of 1979)
3. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/india-ratifies-two-child-labour-conventions/articleshow/59134572.cms?from=mdr (key rectification of the I.L.O made by India.)
4. https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/Factories_Act_1948.pdf (factories act of 1948)
5. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1540780/(article 24 of Indian constitution)
6. https://www.ilo.org/newdelhi/whatwedo/publications/WCMS_557089/lang--en/index.htm#:~:text=As%20per%20Census%202011%2C%20the,India%20are%20out%20of%20school (census of 2011 report on child labour)
7. https://www.cry.org/media/child-labour-in-india-decreasing-at-a-snails-pace#:~:text=%E2%80%93%201%20in%205%20children%20in,group%20in%20India%20are%20working.&text=%E2%80%93%20Urban%20Child%20labour%20has%20grown,age%20group)%20in%20urban%20area. CRY data on child labour deployment in India.
8. https://labour.gov.in/child-women-labour child and women labour conventions in India
Research by: Samridhi Sanchaya
Date of Submission: 23rd January 2021