“Child labour fosters a vicious circle of poverty because such children remain uneducated and keep performing unskilled repetitive tasks that erode their employability in the future.”
~ Kailash Satyarthi (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2014)

Who is a Child?

A child means every human being below the age of 18 years.

~ the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

What is Child Labour?

The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and 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 International Labour Organisation (ILO)

Child labour includes those children working in the worst forms of child labour, as outlined under the ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour, and children engaged in work that is exploitative and/or interferes with their ability to participate in and complete the required years of schooling, in line with the ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age of employment.

What are Child Rights?

Child rights are specialised human rights that apply to all human beings below the age of 18 years.

Child rights include the children’s rights adopted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 20 November 1989. There are four categories:

Right to Survival      Right to Protection   Right to Participation Right to Development

Myths about Child Labour

Source: Global March Against Child Labour


General Hazards and Risks for Child Labourers

  • Long working hours, lack of breaks
  • Hazardous work arrangements
  • Monotonous or poorly designed workload
  • Abuse: sexual, physical, and/or verbal harassment
  • Bullying by the employers
  • Working alone or in overcrowded spaces
  • Use of dangerous machinery including electrical equipment and sharp tools
  • Use of harmful material like carcinogenic chemicals
  • Ergonomic hazards
  • Exposure to extreme heat or cold, and/or the weather
  • Poor hygienic and sanitary conditions
  • Psychosocial hazards
  • Noise and vibration
  • Other serious health and safety hazards

Facts & Figures


  • 168 million children are engaged in child labour, accounting for almost 11% of the world population.
  • More than half viz. 85 million are involved in hazardous work that directly endangers their well-being.
  • 5 million are child slaves.


  • According to the National Statistical Survey Organisation (NSSO) Report 2009-2010, India has 4.98 million child labourers. NGOs estimate this number to be much higher at approximately 50 million.

Do’s and Don’ts


  • Join our campaign to fight against child labour.
  • Be aware of child labour and child rights issues.
  • Report incidents of child labour around you.
  • Raise your voice against child labour.
  • When buying a product, question the seller whether child labour has been used in manufacturing a product.
  • Say “no” to products which use child labour.
  • Push companies of your favourite products to not use child labour when manufacturing these items.
  • Do follow the laws in your country with respect to child labour.
  • Pressure your government to keep their promises on issues of child labour.
  • Create pressure groups to ensure your government enforces child labour laws.
  • Employ the elders, rather than employing the children from the same family.
  • Respect adult workers and give them a decent wage to discourage child labour.
  • Provide skills-based training to adolescents to build their capacities.
  • Encourage the education of children.


  • Do not make poverty an excuse to condone child labour.
  • Do not discriminate against the girl child.
  • Do not hesitate to call the police or child helpline when you spot an incident of child labour.
  • Do not employ children in your household, or support the employment of children.
  • Do not give up the fight against child labour.

Responsibilities of Stakeholders

The Government

  • Ensure the enforcement of child labour laws, including the effective remediation and rehabilitation of child labourers.
  • Promote the effective communication, coordination and collaboration between various government departments and law enforcement agencies for “child-friendly” policies, programmes and action.
  • Ensure free and compulsory education of children, as enshrined in the domestic legislation.
  • The labour inspectorate mechanism should be strengthened through enhanced capacity building for more effective monitoring and understanding of the changing faces of slavery and exploitation.
  • Labour inspections and the relevant law enforcement agencies should regularly inspect sub-contracting units to detect violations, protect the rights of the workers, including migrant workers, and ensure decent working conditions.
  • The penalty under the various labour laws should be such that they have a deterrent effect on the employers of child labourers.
  • Improve the enforcement of anti-trafficking legislation, including the speedy investigation and trial to curb the trafficking of children for forced labour.
  • Ensure the convergence and collaboration amongst law enforcement agencies to prevent crimes against children, and protecting their rights.

Trade Unions

  • Frame the practice of child labour as the violation of decent work standards.
  • Focus on the promotion of the organised workforce, including migrant workers.
  • Undertake workers’ education on, and increase awareness of decent work standards in business units which have been outsourced and/or sub-contracted.
  • Workers are the backbone of any monitoring mechanisms. Trade unions should therefore focus on effective workplace monitoring through their workers.

Business corporations

  • Adhere to national and international labour standards and laws.
  • Establish clear policies, procedures and responsibilities for the identification, withdrawal and rehabilitation of child labourers from the supply chain.
  • Identify vulnerabilities in the supply chain due to the engagement of child labour and other violations of labour standards through diligent systems, and correct them.
  • Establish clear responsibilities for individuals and policies to affix accountability if children are found to be working in the supply chain.
  • Ensure the implementation of the company’s Code of Conduct and other ethical standards and norms throughout the supply chain.
  • Identify the drivers of child labour and labour exploitation in outsourcing and sub-contracting business units.
  • Train all units of the supply chain on labour standards and ethical practices.
  • Ensure greater engagement, collaboration and communication among all stakeholders in the supply chain, including the workers and their families on decent work standards, and the eradication of child labour.

Civil Society

  • Foster an enabling environment that addresses the drivers of child labour.
  • Support the development of knowledge tools and programmes for the eradication of child labour including child trafficking, and the protection of workers, including the special needs of migrant workers.
  • Support initiatives like our campaign, to raise public awareness and lobby for positive policy changes in favour of child rights, including their right to education.
  • Promote ethical consumer behaviour.
  • Craft a culture of communication, collaboration and engagement with different stakeholders viz. civil society, government, trade unions and business corporations to end child labour.
  • Train and build capacity of key stakeholders to bridge any gaps.

Source: Global March against Child Labour. In certain sections, the text has been adapted further.