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  • Ind Psychiatry J
  • v.20(1); Jan-Jun 2011

Child labour issues and challenges

Kalpana srivastava.

Editor, IPJ

“ There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children .” – Nelson Mandela

Children are future citizens of the Nation and their adequate development is utmost priority of the country. Unfortunately, child labor engulfs children across the world. The world is home to 1.2 billion individuals aged 10-19 years. However, despite its menace in various forms, the data shows variation in prevalence of child labor across the globe and the statistical figures about child labor are very alarming. There are an estimated 186 million child laborers worldwide. The 2001 national census of India estimated total number of child labor aged 5–14 to be at 12.6 million.[ 1 ] Small-scale and community-based studies have found estimated prevalence of 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations. Many children are “hidden workers” working in homes or in the underground economy.[ 2 ] Although the Constitution of India guarantees free and compulsory education to children between the age of 6 to 14 and prohibits employment of children younger than 14 in 18 hazardous occupations, child labor is still prevalent in the informal sectors of the Indian economy.[ 3 ] Child labor violates human rights, and is in contravention of the International Labor Organization (Article 32, Convention Rights of the Child). About one-third of children of the developing world are failing to complete even 4 years of education.[ 4 ] Indian population has more than 17.5 million working children in different industries, and incidentally maximum are in agricultural sector, leather industry, mining and match-making industries, etc.[ 5 ]

The term “child labor” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical-mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work. The statistical figures about child workers in the world have variation because of the differences in defining categories of age group and engagement of children in formal and informal sector.[ 6 ]

Child labor continues to be a great concern in many parts of the world. In 2008, some 60% of the 215 million boys and girls were estimated to be child laborers worldwide. Major engagement was in agriculture sector, followed by fisheries, aquaculture, livestock and forestry. In addition to work that interferes with schooling and is harmful to personal development, many of these children work in hazardous occupations or activities that are harmful.[ 7 ] Incidentally, 96% of the child workers are in the developing countries of Africa, Asia and South America. With respect to the child workers between the ages of 5 and 14, Asia makes up 61% of child workers in developing countries, while Africa has 32% and Latin America 7%. Further, while Asia has the highest number of child workers, Africa has the highest prevalence of child labor (40%).[ 8 ]


The policy curbing child labor exists but lack of enforcement of labor restrictions perpetuates child labor. This is manifested in variation in minimum age restriction in different types of employment. The International Labor Office reports that children work the longest hours and are the worst paid of all laborers. In India, the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 and Rules state that no child shall be employed or permitted to work in any of the occupations set forth in Part A of the Schedule or in any workshop wherein any of the processes set forth in Part B of the Schedule is carried on. For this purpose, “child” means a person who has not completed his 14 th year of age. The Act prohibits employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others. The list of hazardous occupations and processes is progressively being expanded on the recommendation of the Child Labor Technical Advisory Committee constituted under the Act.[ 9 ]


Children are employed in both formal and informal sectors. Among the occupations wherein children are engaged in work are construction work, domestic work and small-scale industries. Incidentally, agriculture is not only the oldest but also the most common child occupation worldwide. Some of the industries that depend on child labor are bangle-making, beedi-making, power looms and manufacturing processes. These industries use toxic metals and substances such as lead, mercury, manganese, chromium, cadmium, benzene, pesticides and asbestos. Child labor is very harmful and wholehearted efforts to eliminate this should be done.[ 10 ]


The negative impact on the physiological and psychological levels of children includes specific concerns of child labor and its consequences on mental health. It is worth noting that one-third of children of the developing world are failing to complete even 4 years of education.[ 6 ] The analysis of factors leading to engagement of children in hazardous factors elucidated socioeconomic factors as one of the important determinants. Poverty is considered as one of the contributory factors in child labor.[ 11 ]

Mental well being is less frequently researched in child labor.[ 12 ] A retrospective cohort study in Morocco randomly examined 200 children working in the handicraft sector and found a high prevalence of respiratory, digestive and skin conditions, as well as mental health presentations such as migraines, insomnia, irritability, enuresis and asthenia.[ 13 ]

In a cross-sectional survey, urban Lebanese children aged 10–17, working full-time in small industrial shops, were compared with non-working matched school children. Majority of them had poor physical health, predominantly marked with skin lesions or ear complaints and social care needs.[ 14 ] Similarly, authors aimed to find out consequences in children in Lebanon exposed to solvents, and found significantly higher rates of lightheadedness, fatigue, impaired memory and depression compared with a non-exposed group.[ 15 ] A cross-sectional study in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, used diagnostic interviews to assess prevalence of mental disorders in 528 child laborers and street workers, child domestics and private enterprise workers aged between 5 and 15 years. The prevalence of mental disorders was noted to be as high as 20.1% compared with 12.5% in the general population.[ 16 ] Further study to establish the association between labor-related variables and mental health problems was carried out among 780 children engaged in labor (aged 9–18 years) in the Gaza Strip. Mental health problems of children in labor were likely to be associated with socioeconomic determinants as well as factors related to their underage employment.[ 17 ]

The physical and social consequences are deliberated by researchers; however, mental health area has not been explored so much. Studies are lacking even in Indian scenario regarding impact of child labor on mental health.


Education is a very important part of development. Children who are drawn to child labor are basically driven because of economic deprivation, lack of schooling and engagement of family for daily needs. Studies have found low enrollment with increased rates of child employment. Schools are the platform for early intervention against child labor, as it restricts their participation in menial jobs. Hurdles in this approach are economic reasons. Unless economic change is brought about, the children will not be able to attend the school. Child labor can be controlled by economic development increasing awareness and making education affordable across all levels, and enforcement of anti child labor laws.[ 18 ]

The Government of India has taken certain initiatives to control child labor. The National Child Labor Project (NCLP) Scheme was launched in 9 districts of high child labor endemicity in the country. Under the scheme, funds are given to the District Collectors for running special schools for child labor. Most of these schools are run by the NGOs in the district. Under the scheme, these children are provided formal/informal education along with vocational training, and a stipend of Rs. 100 per month. Health check-up is also done for them.

Poverty is one of the important factors for this problem. Hence, enforcement alone cannot help solve it. The Government has been laying a lot of emphasis on the rehabilitation of these children and on improving the economic conditions of their families.

Many NGOs like CARE India, Child Rights and You, Global March Against Child Labor, etc., have been working to eradicate child labor in India. The child labor can be stopped when knowledge is translated into legislation and action, moving good intention and ideas into protecting the health of the children. The endurance of young children is higher and they cannot protest against discrimination. Focusing on grassroots strategies to mobilize communities against child labor and reintegration of child workers into their homes and schools has proven crucial to breaking the cycle of child labor. A multidisciplinary approach involving specialists with medical, psychological and socio-anthropological level is needed to curb this evil.[ 19 ]

It is in this context that we have to take a relook at the landmark passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009, which marks a historic moment for the children of India. For the first time in India's history, children will be guaranteed their right to quality elementary education by the state with the help of families and communities. The world cannot reach its goal to have every child complete primary school by 2015 without India. Although there have been significant improvements in the proportion of children from socially disadvantaged groups in school, gaps still remain. Girls are still less likely to enroll in school than boys; in 2005, for upper primary school (Grades 6–8) girls’ enrollment was still 8.8 points lower than boys, for Scheduled Tribes (ST) the gender gap was 12.6 points and it was 16 points for Scheduled Castes (SC). RTE provides a ripe platform to reach the unreached, with specific provisions for disadvantaged groups such as child laborers, migrant children, children with special needs, or those who have a “disadvantage owing to social, cultural economical, geographical, linguistic, gender or such other factors.” Bringing 8 million out-of-school children into classes at the age-appropriate level with the support to stay in school and succeed poses a major challenge. Substantial efforts are essential to eliminate disparities and ensure quality with equity. Successful implementation of the Act would certainly go a long way in eradicating child labor in India.

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Child Labor: Advantages and Disadvantages

Child Labor: Advantages and Disadvantages

Child labor has both advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it can provide much-needed financial support for poor families and allow factory workers to pay children less and get their work done for free. However, the disadvantages of child labor include the fact that children are often not mentally or physically prepared for it, leading to illiteracy and exposure to hazardous materials. Child labor also contributes to social issues by making adults feel ashamed for not being able to support their families. Despite the fact that 20 million children work today, child labor should be banned as it takes away children’s rights and prevents them from pursuing education and their own interests.

There are some pros of child labor like children providing money for their families, and factory workers earning more money and having less time to woo ark. Since the children were already poor and could not get an education, working help d provide a little more for their families. The factory workers got an advantage out of chill d labor because they paid the children a lot less and practically got there work done f or free.

Some disadvantages of child labor are that the child is not mentally or physics prepared for it. Children being involved in child labor at a young age are perm neatly considered illiterate since they cannot go to school nor have any type of educe action. Many kids employed in hazardous industries are sometimes afflicted with tubercular sis and many other diseases. They are being exposed to dangerous stuff like making crackers, match boxes, etc.

While children are getting jobs in factories and supporting t heir families, many adults are ashamed because they can’t support their family, w which causes social issues. Child labor has been known around the world and still goes on doubTABLE 2 0 million children work today, they don’t go to school and have little/ no time to play. Although many children have the opportunity to go to school for free and still have jobs by a certain age.

Child labor can be seen as a good thing for some people, but I think it should be banned. It is not fair to the kids because they don’t get to do what t hey want, they carry stones in their hands instead of books. Their rights are being taken away from them as they are forced into labor. Children should be TABLE to do whatever the eye want, child labor is a horrible thing and should not continue.

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disadvantages of child labour essay

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disadvantages of child labour essay

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  • Child labour

Nearly 1 in 10 children are subjected to child labour worldwide, with some forced into hazardous work through trafficking.

A ten-year-old boy subjected to child labour in Bangladesh shows his hands, dirty from work, in 2018.

  • Strengthening child protection systems

Economic hardship exacts a toll on millions of families worldwide – and in some places, it comes at the price of a child’s safety.

Roughly  160 million children were subjected to child labour at the beginning of 2020, with 9 million additional children at risk due to the impact of COVID-19. This accounts for nearly 1 in 10 children worldwide. Almost half of them are in hazardous work that directly endangers their health and development.

Children may be driven into work for various reasons. Most often, child labour occurs when families face financial challenges or uncertainty – whether due to poverty, sudden illness of a caregiver, or job loss of a primary wage earner.

The consequences are staggering. Child labour can result in extreme bodily and mental harm, and even death. It can lead to slavery and sexual or economic exploitation. And in nearly every case, it cuts children off from schooling and health care, restricting their fundamental rights.

Migrant and refugee children – many of whom have been uprooted by conflict, disaster or poverty – also risk being forced into work and even trafficked, especially if they are migrating alone or taking irregular routes with their families.

Trafficked children are often subjected to violence, abuse and other human rights violations. For girls, the threat of sexual exploitation looms large, while boys may be exploited by armed forces or groups .

Whatever the cause, child labour compounds social inequality and discrimination. Unlike activities that help children develop, such as contributing to light housework or taking on a job during school holidays, child labour limits access to education and harms a child’s physical, mental and social growth. Especially for girls, the “triple burden” of school, work and household chores heightens their risk of falling behind, making them even more vulnerable to poverty and exclusion.

Children learn in a centre in Jordan in 2019.

UNICEF works to prevent and respond to child labour, especially by strengthening the social service workforce . Social service workers play a key role in recognizing, preventing and managing risks that can lead to child labour. Our efforts develop and support the workforce to respond to potential situations of child labour through case management and social protection services, including early identification, registration and interim rehabilitation and referral services.

We also focus on strengthening parenting and community education initiatives to address harmful social norms that perpetuate child labour, while partnering with national and local governments to prevent violence, exploitation and abuse.

With the International Labour Organization (ILO), we help to collect data that make child labour visible to decision makers. These efforts complement our work to strengthen birth registration systems, ensuring that all children possess birth certificates that prove they are under the legal age to work.

Children removed from labour must also be safely returned to school or training. UNICEF supports increased access to quality education and provides comprehensive social services to keep children protected and with their families.

To address child trafficking, we work with United Nations partners and the European Union on initiatives that reach 13 countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Learn more about child labour

Twelve-year-old boy in the capital Dhaka sorts through hazardous plastic waste without any protection, exposing himself to infections and diseases like COVID-19.

COVID-19 and child labour

A time of crisis, a time to act

Four boys in Moussadougou village, in the Southwest of Côte d'Ivoire

Child labour and responsible business conduct

Guidance to businesses, policy makers and other stakeholders to advance progress towards SDG Target 8.7 on eradicating child labour by 2025

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell's remarks at the World Day Against Child Labour High-Level Side Event

A family coming back from the farm

Charting the course

Embedding children's rights in responsible business conduct

Related resources

Unicef humanitarian practice: covid-19 technical guidance, child labour: global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward, child labour: unicef data, inter-agency coordination group against trafficking in persons: trafficking in children, unicef child protection advocacy brief: child labour, iom handbook for protection and assistance for migrants vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse, guidelines to strengthen the social service workforce for child protection.

Home — Essay Samples — Social Issues — Child Labour — An Argument against Child Labour

disadvantages of child labour essay

Negative Side of Child Labor: Arguments

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Introduction: child labor argument essay, issues of child labour, what can be done, works cited.

  • Bales, K. (2005). New Slavery: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO.
  • Batstone, D. (2010). Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It. Harper Collins.
  • Edmonds, E. V., & Pavcnik, N. (2005). The effect of trade liberalization on child labor. Journal of International Economics, 65(2), 401-419.
  • Ennaji, M. (2009). Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco. Springer.
  • Giannakopoulos, N. (2007). Child labour and human rights: Making children matter. Ashgate.
  • ILO. (2017). Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and trends, 2012-2016. International Labour Organization.
  • Levison, D., & Foshay, R. (2012). Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Lloyd, C. B., Dearden, K. A., & Santosh, R. (2005). School quality and educational outcomes in rural Ethiopia. International Journal of Educational Development, 25(5), 525-541.
  • United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. United Nations.
  • UNICEF. (2005). Child labour and education: Progress, challenges and future directions. United Nations Children's Fund.

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disadvantages of child labour essay


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