India’s economy is rapidly emerging, at great cost to its children but a proposed amendment to its laws would change the landscape of the country’s workforce.
The Congress-led government proposed a ban on the employment of children under the age of 14 in a move which will also aim to urge more children to go to school. A member of India’s national advisory council and economist A.K. Shivakumar told the Financial Times that the government “recognised that the long-term benefits of education are far more consequential than the shor-term of gains of child labour”.
The discrepancy in figures underline a deep-seated concern in the country where most families depend on their children’s income. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that there are about 28 million children under 14 working in India, mostly on farmland.
The amendment would impose a three-year jail term and Rs50,000 ($900) fine for those who employ children under 14. The same applies to employment of children under 18 in hazardous industries, the FT reports. The ban goes further than existing child labour laws which only prohibit children from working as domestic servants. India’s 1986 Child Labour Act bans children under 14 from hazardous industries, such as mining and chemicals.
However the implementation of the law still faces challenges. Existing child labour laws are widely ignored. Employers justify child labour claiming that they provide better living circumstances for the children.