Child Labour Under International Conventions and National Legislations in India

Rupesh Banga

Date : 15/01/2018

Child Labour Under International Conventions and National Legislations in India

"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children"

Nelson Mandela

Children are the greatest gift to the humanity and they are representative of the beautiful creation of god. They are most tender, gentle and fragile one and needs to be handled and protected with immense care and delicacy. Child labour is the practice of having children engages in economic activity, on a part or full time basis. The practice deprives children of their childhood, and is harmful to their physical and mental development. Poverty, lack of school and the growth of the informal economy are considered to be the key causes of child labour in India.The practice is considered exploitative by many international conventions. The legislations across the World also prohibit child labour. These laws do not consider all work by children as child labour, exceptions include work by the child artists, family duties, supervised training etc. The vast majority of child labour is found in rural settings. and informal urban economy. Many efforts had been put at both national and international level by adopting various enactments and conventions to tackle this problem.

International Conventions on Child Labour

A majority of countries have adopted various legislations to prohibit or placed severe restrictions on the employment and work of children, much of stimulated and guided by standards adopted by the International conventions.

Many efforts had been taken at international level to curb this problem which may be discussed under following headings :-

The United Nations Instruments

Child labour is considered exploitive by the United Nations. The instruments for the protection and welfare of the children are as follows :-

(a) The UN Declaration of the Rights of Child, 1959

In 1959, the United Nations Assembly adopted the Declarations of the Right of the Child. It marked the first major international concensus on the fundamental principles of children's rights. The General Assembly affirmed that the child has the right to special protection for physical, mental and social development.

(b) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966

The International treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and came into force from 3 January 1976, it reaffirms the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with regard to economic, social and cultural rights. It commits the parties to set age limit below which the paid employment of child should be prohibited and punishable by law.

(c) The International Year of Child, 1979

In 1976, during the 31st session of the United Nations General Assembly, 1979 was proclaimed as the International Year of the child with the following objectives:-

•To provide framework of advocacy on behalf of children for enhancing the awareness of the special need of children.

•To promote recognition of the fact that programmes for children should be an integral part of economic and social development.

(d) The UN Conventions on the Right of Child, 1989

It is a human right treaty which sets out the civil, political economic, social, health and cultural right of children. The convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen years, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislations.

International Labour Organization Instruments

ILO is an important specialized agency of the United Nations, which is working for the protection of children from exploitation and for the betterment of the conditions of labour throughout the world.

The efforts made by ILO to combat child labour are:-

(1) The Minimum Age (Trimmers and Stokers) Convention, 1921 (No. 15)

It provided that young persons under the age of eighteen years shall not be employed or work on vessels as trimmers or stokers.

(2) The Minimum Age (Underground Work) Convention, 1965 (No. 123)

The employment in underground mines which by their nature or the circumstances in which they are carried on are dangerous to the life, health, or morals of persons employed there in must be prohibited below the age of fifteen years of age.

(3) The Minimum Age for Admission to Employment Work, 1973 (No. 138)

One of the most effective methods of ensuring that children do not start working too young is to set the age at which children can legally be employed or otherwise work.The fundamental convention sets the minimum age for admission to employment or work at fifteen years for light work and the minimum age for hazardous work at eighteen.

(4) The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)

This fundamental convention defines child, "as person under eighteen years of age. It requires ratifying States to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

(5) The Domestic Workers Convention, 2011(No. 189)

On 16 June 2011, convention was adopted by Internationals Labour Organization. Article 3 Clearly specify that each member States shall promote rights at work, namely :-

•The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour

•The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupations.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Elimination of child labour is a key component of UNICEF'S Policy. UNICEF has adopted the following objectives to deal with the problems of child labour :-

•To promote compulsory primary education.

•To implement programmes for the rehabilitation of child labour.

•To strengthen alliances between media, industry and the legal set up for social mobilization in support of elimination of child labour.

Legislations Relating to Child Labour.

Government of India has passed a number of enactments to eradicate child labour. Some of the significance legislations are mentioned below :-

(1) The Employment of Children Act, 1938

The Act was enacted to regulate the employment of children in a certain industrial establishments and was amended by the Employment of Children (Amendment) Act, 1978. This Act prohibits employment or permission of child to work in any work connected with the transport of passengers, goods or mail by railways etc., who has not completed fifteen years of age.

(2) The Factories Act, 1948

The Act is applicable to any factory where in ten or more workers are working in any of which a manufacturing process is being carried on with the aid of power. Section 23 defines that no young person below fourteen years is allowed to be employed in dangerous machines.

(3) The Plantations Labour Act, 1951

The Act applies to any land used or intended to be used for growing tea, coffee, rubber, cinchona or any other plantations which measures 5 hectares or more and in which 15 or more workers are employed.The children below the age of fourteen years shall not be employed in plantations.

(4) The Mines Act, 1952

It has been provided in the Act, that no person below the age of fifteen years shall be allowed to be present in any part of a mine where any mining operation is being Carried on.

(5) The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961

The Act prohibited the employment of children below fifteen years of age in motor transport undertakings.

(6) The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966

The Act prohibits the employment of young persons below fourteen years of age in industrial premises, where any manufacturing process connected with the making of beedi or cigar is carried on irrespective on the number of persons employed.

(7) The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulations) Act, 1986

The Act, states that its main aim is to prohibit the engagement of children below fourteen years of age in certain employment and to regulate the conditions of work of children in certain other employments such as beedi making, soap manufacture, building and construction industry etc.

(8) The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016

The Act prohibits the employment of children below Fourteen years of age in all occupations and of adolescents between Fourteen and eighteen years of age in hazardous occupations and process.

(9) The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009

The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of six and fourteen and specifies minimum norms in elementary school.


The issue of child labour has become one of the most sensitive and debated issue on the issue of rights of children. It is not a new phenomenon or feature peculiar to India- It has been there all over the world. The current causes of global child labour are poverty, limited access to education,unemployment,over population etc. Poverty is one of the important factor for this problem. Hence enforcement alone cannot help to solve it. The international community has shown its concern about the problem of human rights in general and child labour in particular by adopting a number of instruments. The child labour can be stopped when knowledge is translated into legislations and action, moving good intention and ideas into protecting the health of the children. Domestic policies, positive actions for the child's welfare should be evidenced by way of various international conventions, legislations and judicial interpretations. A comprehensive integrated approach is required to tackle and combat child labour.


1. Manjula Batra, The International Law and the Indian Child 5(Page Publications, New Delhi, 1990).

2. UNICEF, "Guide to the Convention on the Right of the Child". Available from:,Last accessed on 12-9-2016.

3. U.Chandra, Human Rights 37(Allahabad Law Agency, Allahabad, 2006).

4. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, Article 10.

5. Pragnya Bhattamishra, International Conventions on Child Labour 89(Universal Law Publishing co; New Delhi,, 2012)

6. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of child, 1989, Article 4.

7. The Minimum Age (Trimmers and Stokers ) Conventions, 1956, Article 2.

8. The Minimum Age (Underground Work) Convention, 1956, Article 1.

9. The Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and Work, 1973, Article. 6

10. The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999, Article 3.

11. B.K. Sharma, "Child Labour in India-A Brief Discussion," Labour Law Journal, Vol.1, 2008, pp.199-202.

12. The Employment of Children Act, 1938 (Act No. 26 of 1938), Section 3 (1).

13. The Factories Act, 1948 (63 of 1948), Section 67.

14. The Plantations Labour Act, 1951 (69 of 1951), Section 2 C.

15. The Mines Act, 1952 (35 of 1952), Section 2 (e).

16. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 (27 of 1961), Section 2.

17. The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966 (32 of 1966) Section 2 (b).

18. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (61 of 1986), Section 3.

19. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016. Section 2(ii).

20. The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009(35 of 2009), Section 3.

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