March 27, 2020
March 28, 2020


In 1947, the International Labour Organization (ILO) held its first Asian regional conference in Delhi. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru urged the ILO to formulate policies pertaining to social justice in the sphere of labour laws while taking into consideration the economic constraints of the developing countries. The policies promulgated by ILO have been dynamic in nature to attain the objective and simultaneously to promote social growth of developing countries. India’s constitutional mandate on child labour has been coherent to the principles of the conventions of the ILO. In 2017, India ratified two core conventions of the ILO to curb the worst forms of labour and the convention on the admission of age to provide employment to children. After the ratification of these two conventions, India has ratified six out of eight core ILO conventions. Though India has ratified ILO Conventions No. 138 and No. 182 to promote the welfare of the youth and children, the question of implementation of these conventions has been a far-reaching concern due to the size of the population. Throughout the years, India has been advocating for the promotion of child rights and to eliminate child labour through the implementation of National policy on child labour which came into force in 1987 and a child labour cell which was established by the National labour institute in 1990 but unfortunately, both of these policies have lacked implementation on the grass-root level. It is pertinent to have schemes which propose multitude objectives such as the National Authority for Elimination of Child Labour which did not restrict the scope to only preventing child labour but also extended its mandate to education, health and welfare of the child[1]. These policies are presumed to be the duty of the government since it acts as the Parens Patriae to all the children residing in the country but it also becomes the duty of the government to bridge the gap between child labour policies and implementation of such policies. It is pertinent for one to know that there has been a paradigm shift in the child labour policies from regulation to abolition.[2]
ILO has been focusing on the aspect of regulation rather than abolition or prohibition due to the need for protecting the interests of children who need to work for daily sustenance and to ensure the protection of these interests, the ILO Convention number 138 categorizes the age groups of children for different kinds of work into ‘light work’ and ‘hazardous work’ which restricts work carried out by a child below the age of 14 and the age group of 16 subsequently. This Convention completely prohibits work from a child below the age of 12. The aforementioned provision can be linked to Article 24 of the Constitution of India which prohibits employment of children in factories and other hazardous activities. It is often assumed that the ILO has played a vital role in the policies formulated by the government of India but these policies are prominently supported by the governing council of the ILO in which India has had a significant impact. India has had a huge role to play in the worker and employer groups of the working groups of the ILO. The magnitude of impact can be identified by the representation in the ILO under which the Indian representatives are given three out of fifty – six votes in the governing council of the ILO. It can be construed that the ILO and Indian policymakers have worked harmoniously to develop policies pertaining to child labour in the interest of children and the developing state of India. The ILO Convention No. 138 provides for a possible exemption to developing countries provided that it is a necessity for the child to work and it is not possible for the state to provide for the child due to economic constraints. In the census conducted in 2011, it had been identified that there are 10.1 million working children in India between the age of 5 – 14 and according to the ILO Fact Sheet on child labour in India (2017), there has been a steep decline in the number of cases of child labour in the rural areas while there has been a rise in the number of cases of child labour in the urban areas. Through the enactment of the Child Labour Amendment (Prohibition and Regulation) act, 2016 and the Right to education act 2009, this focuses on furthering the cause of the ILO Conventions by categorizing the age groups and the type of work.
While domestic efforts have been rampant to curb child labour through government policies and judicial efforts, there has been active participation by the ILO since the launch of the International programme for child labour (IPEC) in the year 1991 which has facilitated in building a systematic and multipronged comprehensive communication strategy to curb child labour across the globe. In support of this program, India was the first country to sign a memorandum of understanding in 1992[3], this resulted in a plethora of organizations funding the local governance in India to trace and track areas in which child labour was prevalent. It had identified ten hazardous areas in twenty-one districts in five states where child labour was prevalent. The aim and objective were to prohibit such a practice in these regions and create a deterrent in these areas to prevent child labour in the future. This program concluded in 2009 and it was estimated that 103,152 children and adolescents were rescued or helped through this programme. Since then the government of India has taken proactive steps to enforce legislative provisions of all the aforementioned acts in compliance with the ILO Conventions ratified by India. It is important for the marginalized section of the society to co-operate with the government of India since the legislative provisions to curb child labour can only be enforced through the participation and support of the people. [4] This support of the people can only be obtained when the mind-set of the society is changed and this can only be done when the people realize that child labour and bonded labour is detrimental to the child’s physical and mental health. [5] The National Child Labour Policy and National Child Labour project scheme could have only been effective if there was active participation from the community and this would only be possible if the government could incentivize the same. In this regard, the government should take an initiative to actively spread awareness to the targeted communities in which the majority of the children have been employed. It is a grave misconception that a great number of children have been employed in the industrial sector but rather the significant part of child labour can be found in agricultural sectors. [6]  Hence, the government should focus on making public policy relating to child labour while keeping in mind the majority of the children have been employed in the agricultural sector.
Though, there have been various initiatives by the government of India in the sphere of public policy and legislation to curb child labour. There is however a substantial number of children who have been employed in the industrial and agricultural sector. India’s ratification of ILO Convention No. 138 and No. 182 is a step forward to eliminating child labour and promoting social growth of children within the society. The interaction between the ILO and local governance in India has proved successful in mitigating child labour as seen in the aforementioned examples. All in all, there has to be active participation from the community and government to achieve the goal of abolishing child labour once and for all.



[1] Annual Report on Child labour by Ministry of Labour, Government of India, 1999-2000.

[2] Bequele, A. and J. Boyden. 1988. “Working Children: Current Trends and Policy Responses.” International Labor Review 127,2: 153-171.

[3] ILO (International Labour Office). 1992. World Labour Report 1992. Geneva.  

[4] Aditya Kumar Patra and Sujan Nayak (2009), “Child labour: An ugly face of the civilized society” JSOC. 19(3) 201-203. Bremner, Robert.

[5] Mukherje (2008), “Change of societal attitude imperative” Yojana vol. 34 No. 1 May 208, 28-30

[6] Asha Bajpai, “Child Rights in India: Law, Policy and Practice” (New Delhi: OUP, 2003), 148.



Aaron Alvares is a third-year law student at the School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be University)







In Content Picture Credit: NDTV

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