Mitras Analysis of News : 16-6-2017

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No time to work (The Hindu) (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the India’s ratification to ILO convention 138 and 182, which will help to curb child labour in India. (GS paper II)


  • After a long wait of almost two decades, the Government of India finally decided last week to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour and Convention 138 on Minimum Age of Employment.
  • This decision will have a path-breaking impact on the lives of those who are forced to remain on the margins of society and subject to exploitative conditions. About 4.3 million children wake up to a day of labour and not school.

ILO convention 138 and 182

  • India is a founder member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which came into existence in 1919. At present, the ILO has 187 members. The principal means of action in the ILO is the setting up of International standards in the form of Conventions, Recommendations and Protocol. India has so far ratified 45 Conventions, out of which 42 are in force. Out of these 4 are Fundamental or Core Conventions.
  • The ratification of the Convention No 138 and 182 would move a step ahead in the direction of achieving the goal of eradication of child labour from the country as it would be legally binding to comply with the provisions of the Conventions. Presently, Convention 138 has been ratified by 169 countries and Convention 182 has been ratified by 180 countries.
  • Hence, by ratifying these two core conventions, India would join majority of the countries who have adopted the legislation to prohibit and place severe restrictions on the employment and work of children.
  • The main bottleneck in the way of India ratifying Conventions 182 and 138 was addressing forced or compulsory recruitment of children and appropriately raising the age of employment in hazardous occupations from 14 to 18 years.
  • Consequent to the passing of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016 by the Indian Parliament prohibiting the employment of children up to 14 years of age, and children up to 18 years of age in hazardous occupations, it was imperative that we ratified Conventions 182 and 138.


  • conventions 138 and 182 of the United Nations body leave it to the member-states to determine what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable work for children at different ages.
  • Such flexibility has given the Indian government wiggle room in adopting the international standards in question, even though the 2016 legislation falls several notches below a comprehensive prohibition of child labour.
  • The Act contains the controversial provision that condones the employment of children below 14 years under the rubric of family enterprises and the declassification of several industries as hazardous occupations.
  • The detrimental effects on the ground from these dilutions of the original 1986 Act could be widespread. With roughly 90% of the workforce continuing to remain outside the ambit of the organised sector, protecting vulnerable children from exploitation is difficult.

Way ahead

  • Investment in children is an investment in the future. We cannot alter the circumstances overnight. To achieve great reforms, one must continue to move in a singular direction with sincerity. Our government has shown steadfastness and strong resolve to uphold the rights of our children.
  • While policymakers are no doubt alert to the inequities that perennially plague Indian society, the practical realities are too painful for the millions who languish on the margins. Any genuine enforcement of a minimum age at work will evade governments so long as a universal minimum wage of subsistence for the adult workforce is not implemented thoroughly.

Question: “Today’s child is tomorrow’s asset”, in this context, what are the implication of ILO convention 138 and 182 on child labour in India?

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