Publication Date

January 2000

Publication Details

Chaudhri, DP and Wilson, EJ, The Challenge of Child Labour in Rural India: A Multi-Dimensional Problem in Need of an Orchestrated Policy Response, Working Paper 00-02, Department of Economics, University of Wollongong, 2000.


Perceptions about facets of child labour in India, and elsewhere, are strongly conditioned by our knowledge of economic history, socio-cultural view of child welfare, respect, or lack of it, for functioning of the market system and attitudes towards duties of the Sovereign with respect to its citizens and to the international community. The spectrum of views generated by such a complex intellectual prism would naturally be rather large. The coloured vision of vested interests reduces the transpiracy of the spectrum. This is clearly observable in media reporting, legislative processes, national and international posturings on the subject of child labour. The Indian scene has been rendered more complex due to lack of factual knowledge (even among the researchers) on regional, gender and rural dimensions of its incidence. This lacuna has nothing to do with absence of statistical data or hard facts available in public domain. The available statistics are hardly processed, analysed and deceminated. The problem is neither ignorance nor lack of data. But rather shallow and partial understanding of the issues involved. Among many articulate and determined interest groups facts are not allowed to come in the way of their opinions and unexamined beliefs. This paper is an attempt to provide a tentative framework for an objective, factual and systematic look at important dimensions of the child labour problem in rural India. The paper is divided into eight sections. Section I deals with history of the child labour phenomena in industrialised market economies. Section II clarifies the changing meaning and concepts of child labour and ILO’s views on the subject. Section III is devoted to the growth of child population and school education. Section IV brings out gender dimensions of child labour and Nowhere Children in Rural India. Section V deals with sectoral distribution of child labour and Section VI with age composition of child labour. Section VII deals with fragmented and urban oriented policy response to the child labour problem. Last Section brings out limitations of the existing policy responses to the challenge of child labour in rural India and elsewhere and the need for their orchestration.