Student of AHRD – Ahemdabad
Date – 18th February, 2013
Child labour, especially in developing countries, has been an increasing target for social reformers. Although there are many suggested solutions for the eradication of child labour, many are simplistic and create more problems than they cure. This research examines the efforts made by India in eradication of child labour till date and suggests reforms that can be explored. The focus of research will be of exploring how HRD can facilitate eradication of child labour in Indian metros on a faster pace. Finally, the research would also identify HRD issues that can be further researched on for developing future HRD strategies to arrest the child labour issues on permanent basis.
Key words: Child Labour, HRD – Human Resource Development, Education, Capability building approach.
Child labour is a concern around the globe and in the global marketplace because many countries either do not legally prohibit the employment of children or do not enforce their existing laws. The strong and often emotional feelings against child labour are especially prominent in countries generally considered part of the developed world. Therefore, many U.S. corporations have second thoughts about moving their production to India or underdeveloped countries because of the strong feelings that exist back home. Still, there are strong incentives to move because of the lower labour costs that are the result of the use of child workers.
Child labour is often defined in terms such as work carried out to the detriment of the child in violation of international and national law. In equally negative but broader terms, child labour can be defined as "children who are denied their childhood and a future, who work long hours for low wages, often under conditions harmful to their health and to their physical and mental development, and who are sometimes separated from their families and frequently deprived of education" (Ali, 2000). Both of these definitions are loaded in a negative direction. In addition, they do not take into account the fact that definitions of which a child is vary considerably from culture to culture and country to country, and no attempt is made by either definition to define who a child is. A more neutral definition might be "work that is performed for payment and outside of the family by someone who is under the age allowed by the country in which the child resides."
If we look at the history of begging, in Buddhism, monks and nuns traditionally live by begging for alms, as did the historical Gautama Buddha himself. This is, among other reasons, so that lay people can gain religious merit by giving food, medicines, and other essential items to the monks. The monks seldom need to plead for food; in villages and towns throughout modern Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other Buddhist countries, householders can often be found at dawn every morning streaming down the road to the local temple to give food to the monks. In East Asia, monks and nuns were expected to farm or work for returns to feed themselves up
Children in almost every part of the world (including the Western world) have always taken part in social and economic activities as members of the household to which they belong. Given that family and not the individual is the unit of social activity, a child’s work in this case is seen as a process of socialization and apprenticeship (Hasnat, 1995). Clay and Stephens (1996) provided an American perspective on child labour. Child labour started in the colonies that were to become the United States in the early 1600s, involving children in manufacturing operations, such as working with cotton and silk, and making hats and ribbons. Factors like rapid growth of industrialization, death of a generation of men in the Civil War, and low value placed on education by families encouraged child labour in the United States. The emergence of labour unions and bargaining power posed threats to employers, who then preferred hiring children to hiring adults.
Child labour is rooted in poverty, uncontrolled population growth, social customs, migration, lack of facilities for education, and low government spending on education, as can be seen in many developing countries. Child labour is found in various economic activities, such as family-based agriculture, domestic service, street vending, small-scale manufacturing, and prostitution (Guha- Khasnobis, Mehta, & Agarwal, 1999; Hasnat, 1995). In developing countries, trade did not create child labour but did promote its use (Basu, 1999; Hasnat, 1995).
According to a U.N. study, there are approximately eighty-five million child workers worldwide, with two to three million of them in the developed world and the rest in developing countries (United Nations Fund for Children’s Education, 1995); 61 percent of child workers are in Asia. Half of the twelve million child workers in Pakistan are under age ten (Ali, 2000). This employment often comes at the expense of children’s education, health, and natural development (Guha-Khasnobis et al., 1999).
The notion that child labour is a social problem gained importance during the industrial revolution. Children moved from family-based production to factory systems where they worked in hazardous environments without family supervision (Hasnat, 1995). In 1866, the International Workers’ Congress called for an international campaign against child labour, though the motive was suspicious because it was seen to protect union members’ jobs and not children. During the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) first session in 1919, the Minimum Age (Industry) Convention was adopted, thereby setting standards on the minimum age requirements (fourteen years) for eligibility for employment in industry, agriculture, shipping, and other nonindustrial occupations.
The ILO’s efforts to combat child labor became evident at the international level in the mid-1980s. In 1986, the United Nations Fund for Children’s Education (UNICEF) increased its efforts to address child labor issues from a broader perspective. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a Program of Action for the Elimination of the Exploitation of Child Labor ("Child Labor," 1997).
Arguments for and Against Eliminating Child Labour
The complete elimination of child labor is an issue because there is no agreement on whether this is a desirable goal. Although there are many reasons why child labor should be eliminated, there are reasons for its continuation, albeit in an environment that protects this vulnerable population from abuse.
Arguments for Eliminating Child Labour -There are many arguments for why child labor should be eliminated:
Working at too early an age poses physical problems for the child’s development (for example, vision, posture, nutrition).
Children are particularly vulnerable to workplace abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) and are not easily able to protect themselves.
Working keeps children from attending school and attending to their studies (Grootaert & Kanbur, 1995).
Children are not able to develop normal socialization skills when they are employed for long hours (for example, play, relationships with other children, hobbies).
A difficult, and not very widely accepted argument, is that child labor enables continuing destructive behavior, such as uncontrolled population growth.
Eliminating child labor may well lead to increased death rates, allowing those who remain to change their behaviors and live healthier lives (Basu & Van, 1999).
Retaining suppressed wages for child labor also reduces wages of adults, creating a cyclical demand for child labor to provide sufficient income for a family.
Arguments for Retaining Some Form of Protected Child Labour - The following arguments all assume that the child labor is performed in an environment that has adequate safeguards to protect the children from all forms of abuse. In spite of the many political arguments opposed to child labor, there are reasons for supporting it:
As long as poverty continues, the decision may well come down to working (and eating and living) or not working and dying of starvation (both the child and the child’s family).
Children who work and enjoy their work may well develop a work ethic and develop on-the-job skills (similar to apprenticeships) that will serve them well as they become adults.
In the appropriate work environment, children can develop socialization skills on the job.
Children who work in unskilled or low-skilled jobs may well develop the motivation to acquire education that will allow them to escape into more highly skilled or professional jobs.
Many countries cannot afford to provide children with education; prohibiting them from working may force them into activities that are less socially desirable, such as gangs, thievery, begging, prostitution, and pornography.
Penalizing countries that do not eliminate child labour may create a downward economic spiral, because the only competitive advantage some countries have is based on low wages paid to child laborers. The ownward spiral adds to the country’s poverty, making child labor even more necessary rather than helping to eradicate it.
Alternative Approaches for Eliminating Child Labour
Guha-Khasnobis et al. (1999) suggested imposing sanctions on countries that use child labor. They also suggested that more be done to provide free education for children, with the objective of eradicating the need for children to work. The establishment of schools in villages means children can have easy access to learning, but these researchers did not suggest how this could be funded, and funding for school is a significant problem in many developing countries. During the presentation of their article at the First Annual Asian Conference of the Academy of Human Resource Development, held in Bangalore, India, in October 2002, many participants enthusiastically underscored the importance of this point. They concurred that efforts to eliminate child labor in India have faced severe difficulties, including the inability of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (education) to provide the programs and the resources to support such children in moving beyond the need to work and gain an education that would allow them to move into jobs as adults that require an education.
Grootaert and Kanbur (1995) suggested providing economic and legislative incentives, such as schools, grants, and targeted funding by the government, to reduce child labor. The ILO and UNICEF accept this approach because it requires a consistent balance between economic and legislative measures. Countries like India and Brazil have been somewhat successful in addressing child labour through the use of such measures. An example would be to include child labour issues in trade unions’ collective bargaining process because children are vulnerable and should be appropriately and fairly represented. Eaton and Da Silva (1999) suggested that increased quality standards would require firms to hire skilled workers (that is, adults). Adult workers would be encouraged to work if the firms offered higher wages, provided better work environments, and restricted work hours for children—all possible through increased revenue from higher-quality products.
Eliminating child labour is complicated because it revolves around children, a vulnerable population (Miljeteig, 1999). Children have to accept decisions that are made for them. Involving them in decision-making processes is also an issue because there are questions about children’s ability to make strategic decisions (Frederiksen, 1999). Woodhead (1999) conducted a study with three hundred working children in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and Central America, and 77 percent of the study participants expressed an overwhelming preference to combine work with school. Participants recognized the high cost of attending school, which includes not only the costs of tuition and books but also the opportunity costs of potential loss of income by not working. However, they were also aware of the benefits they could reap from obtaining an education. The study disclosed that children often do not have a choice between working and getting an education. Getting an education was desirable, whereas working was a necessity. The children wanting an education faced the extremely difficult task of having to work to pay for their own education. Proposing only one alternative for resolving the elimination of child labor is analogous to solving a problem and looking for one correct answer. Therefore, a variety of alternatives need to be implemented so that various aspects of the issue can be addressed and resolved.
On-the-job training for children is one way of enhancing skill and providing career opportunities. In Kenya, the emerging employment areas are in the jua kali—small, roadside businesses. By working as apprentices, children learn employment skills from skilled craftspeople (McLean, 1996). The trade unions in Brazil’s gemstone industry set up vocational training centers that child workers attend, learning various skills needed to work in that industry (Myrstad, 1999).
Incentives can help children remain active in both education and work. When training is tied to wages, children and their families see both short- and long-term benefits (Blagbrough & Glynn, 1999).
Providing social support and entertainment can support efforts to control child labor, and employers and governments can seek help from NGOs to address this issue (Narayan, 1997). In developing countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan, NGOs provide basic education and recreational activities for mental and physical development and organize campaigns for creating awareness in communities of appropriate treatment of children, also educating the populace on population control and conducting action research to understand and resolve problems of child workers better (Ali, 2000).
Form the research it is found that there is a gap in terms of strategic HRD interventions for eradicating the child labour from India. The said research will attempt to suggest solutions which can be implemented by various agencies viz (a) Government (b) Society (c) Corporate (d) NGO’s (e) Gram Panchayat (f) Families, etc for eradication of Child Labour.
Analytical Framework (Objectives of the Study)
In dealing with the problems of child labour and human rights several questions come to mind: Is poverty the ultimate cause of child labour? Is compulsory schooling a panacea to child labour? What does the "child’s best interest" consist of? Whether child labour fundamentally violates child rights.
Study strategic research in the area of child labour in Indian and their recommendations.
Analyse in India the evolution of the child labour issue and its progress from economical, political, social, legal perspective.
Explore and Research whether HRD interventions can resolve the issue of child labour.
Based on the research suggest alternatives to eradicate child labour.
H01 – Human Resource Development (HRD) interventions will enable eradication of child labour in India.
The study would be based on secondary data collected from various government sources such as the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of HRD, ILO, NGO’s, and Research by government on the subject. The research will be conducted more specifically obtaining data from the victims (child labour), the influencers & supporters. There will be also data collected from focus groups deliberating on eradication of child labour in India. The best and innovative practices of HRD would be collected from various research papers presented by scholars in HRD.