According to Government data, every 11th child is working in India (5-18 years).

New Delhi, June 11, 2015: An analysis of Census data by CRY- Child Rights and You reveals that the child labour has been decreasing at a mere 2.2% per year over the last decade, contrary to popular perception of its substantial reduction. At this pace, it would take more than a century to get the existing working children out of labour. Today, over a crore children continue to be a part of the country’s workforce.

The analysis also points out a critical trend – The child labour in urban areas in the country has increased by 53% over 2001-2011. “This is of utmost concern especially since enforcement machinery is primarily based in urban regions and the implementation of child protection structures is stronger in urban India. This increase in urban child labour could be attributed to increased migration including seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors.” Says Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy & Research, CRY (Child Rights &You).

Having said that, a staggering majority of working children (80%) are based in rural areas and 3 out 4 of these children work in Agriculture, as cultivators or in Household Industries, most of which are home-based employments.

Child labour in India also reflects some remarkable age-based trends. The decade 2001-2011 saw an overall decrease in working children in the age-group of 10-14 years. Contrary to this, working children between 5-9 years increased by 37%. Of particular concern is the whopping raise in child labour in the age group of 5-9 years in urban areas – the number of working boys grew by 154% where as the number of working girls grew by 240%.

Key Data Highlights
  • – Every 11th child is working in India (5-18 years).
  • – 1 in 5 children in the 15-18 years age-group in India are working.
  • – Working children between 5-9 years increased by 37%.
  • – Urban Child labour has grown by more than 50%.
  • – 154% increase in the number of working boys (5-9 age group) in urban area.
  • – 240% increase in the number of working girls (5-9 age group) in urban area.
  • – 80% of child labourers work in rural areas.
  • – More than 50% children in labour are concentrated in five states – MP, UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Rajasthan.

Interestingly, more than half of working children in India are concentrated in five states namely Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. These states account for more than 55 lakh child workers. The table below gives the growth in working children in these 5 states over 2001-2011.

Sr.No Name of State/ UT Working Children (2001) (In Lakhs) Working Children (2011)(In Lakhs) % Change (2001-2011)
1. UTTAR PRADESH 19.28 21.77 12.91
2. BIHAR 11.18 10.89 -2.59
3. RAJASTHAN 12.63 8.48 -32.86
4. MAHARASHTRA 7.64 7.28 -4.71
5. MADHYA PRADESH 10.65 7 -34.27

Out of these 5 states, we see that only UP has witnessed a growth in child labour by 13% with 1 out of 5 child labourers in India belonging to the state. There has been a negligible decrease in child labour in Bihar and Maharashtra whereas the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have achieved substantial reduction in working children by almost a third.

Key Data Highlights
  • – 11 states recorded an increase in the number of working children over the decade. The major states among them are Kerala (74%), Uttarakhand (17%), Himachal Pradesh (17%) and Uttar Pradesh (13%).
  • – Only 13 out of 35 states and UTs performed above the national reduction of 20% in working children (2001-2011).

The net of child protection and safety needs to be tightened considerably to address the grave issue of child labour. For instance, data available from the National Child Labor Project (NCLP) indicates that 59026 inspections were done nationally in 2012 out of which only 435 cases were convicted. The magnitude of child labour in India is grave and all legislations, policies and enforcement machinery related to children should take into cognizance the enormity of the issue.