The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016

child l

This article was written by Shruti Goel, a student of Government Law College, Mumbai. 

“If we can’t begin to agree on fundamentals, such as the elimination of the most abusive form of child labour then we really are not ready to march forward into future” – Alexis Human

The two houses of Parliament recently put their stamp on the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act,2016. It seeks to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act,1986. It prohibits “the engagement of children in all occupations and of adolescents in hazardous occupations and processes” where according to section 2 of the act adolescents refer to those who have completed fourteenth year of age but has not completed his eighteenth year; children to those under 14. It also makes child labour a cognizable offence which may land the offender to a jail term of not less than 1 year and a 10 thousand fine.

Though the bill brings these great reforms in the previous act but it also has its own shortcomings. The ban on hazardous work by adolescents is accompanied by the changes in the list of hazardous occupations, slashing it down from 83 activities to only 3 (mining, explosives and occupations mentioned in Factories Act). This means that children are allowed to work in other hazardous occupations like construction sites, glass and bangle factories, etc. This will not only subject them to ailments like tuberculosis, parasitic diseases or eye problems but also have adverse phycological impact on them. Further the occupations listed as hazardous can be removed according to section 4 at the discretion of government authorities without the consent of Parliament. The act also includes a provision that allows children up to age of 14years to work after school hours in “family or family enterprises” or allows the child to be “an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry”. The definition of family includes not only parents of the child but also their siblings and the definition of family enterprise include any work, profession or any business in which family members works along with other members. The bill does not seek to justify family work. It may lead the children to work at home based work unit like biddi rolling, papad work, embroidery work, lock making, cotton growing and manufacturing other products to fulfill the demand of their contractor. There is no distinction between help and work as help. Allowing children to work in family enterprises have made children more vulnerable to exploitation. Child labour will become invisible now because the location of the work has changed from factories to the homes of business owner and workers. Moreover, this clause doesn’t define the hours work after school hours. This bill take away the very right they gain by allowing the children to work after school hours i.e. Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education act 2000. Working after school may have deleterious effect on their health and their aptitude of learning. How do you expect a child to come after school and help his family to meet the deadline of their contractor? How is that child supposed to do his homework or revise what he/she learnt in school?

Moreover, this law can be blatantly misused by many and may lead to victimization of children and certain clauses dilutes the spirit of act. The act is not being thought through and there is no effective machinery to check and enforce it properly. There will be difficulty in finding out if it is a family enterprise or a family employed by some contractor to complete an order, if there won’t be an effective machinery. This may complicate the nature of child labour. Moreover, no cross reference has been made to other laws like The Protection of Children from sexual offences act 2012, RTE and Juvenile Justice Act: which are important for its enforcement. There must be a linkage between child labour and education laws as it is the most important element to reduce child labour. They cannot work in isolation.

They also contravene the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Minimum Age Convention and UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a signatory. According to UNICEF, a child is involved in child labour if he or she is between 5 and 11 years, does at least one hour of economic activity, or at least 28 hours of domestic work in a week. And in case of children aged between 12 and 14, 14 hours of economic activity or at least 42 hours of economic activity and domestic work per week is considered child labour. The ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour and Convention 138 on the minimum age to work have still not been ratified by India. India and Estonia are the two countries that are yet to ratify Convention 182 and are among the 15 countries that are yet to ratify Convention 138. According to the 2001 census, there were 12.6 million child workers between the ages of five and 14 in India. In 2011, this number fell to 4.35 million. The National Sample Survey Office’s survey of 2009-10 put the number at 4.98 million. The pace at which child labour is decreasing slow and insufficient and will be difficult to maintain in the presence of new norms.


 May reopen the floodgates of child labour and will lead to exploitation of children.

 It will be difficult to monitor and track the nature of work done by children – help or work as help as it will be hidden in homes.

 It may reverse the gains of Right to Education act,2000.

 Child trafficking will also increase.

 US labour department has threatened to put India on a list of countries that allegedly use child labour in producing hand-crafted carpet, a move that could impact Indian exports to the US.

 It can take our country decades’ back.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment act,2016 can prove to be an obstacle in the progress of the country. These laws are not only labour laws but also child protection and rights law. And to ensure no one have unequal childhoods there need to be revaluation and proper assessment of this law. The hours and the nature of works needs to be defined in the act. Moreover, the list of hazardous occupations for children needs to be reconsidered.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *