Prevention of Child Labour in India: Impact of Education

“Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow. Only through right education can a better order of society be built up”[1]– Jawaharlal Nehru

Children are the future of our nation and it is our duty to provide them a society which will allow them to get nurtured properly and get education to improve their mental and physical development. However, the employment child labour is practiced in India since time immemorial and does not allow the child to develop properly.

“According to Census 2011, the number of child labourers in India is 10.1 million of which 5.6 million are boys and 4.5 million are girls.”[2]

Education plays a very vital role in our life. It enables to achieve our dreams and to be more aware about our rights and duties. Education also helps us to make informed choices in life. Primary education for children is extremely essential as they are our future and without education there is no scope of development.

“According to figures till 2018, India’s male literacy rate stood at 82.4% and female literacy rate stood at 65.8%.”[3]

Employment of child labour poses a great concern to the nation as they hinder the growth of children and this in turn hinders the development of our country. The objective of this article is to analyse the effect education has on preventing child labour in India. This article aims at answering the following questions:

  • majority of the people are aware about the various schemes and measures taken to prevent child labour and encourage education?


“According to the International Labour Organization: The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that:

  • is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or
  • interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.”[4]


Child labour in India has existed since time immemorial. Kautilya’s Arthashastra talks about employment of child labour in the form of child slaves during ancient period. They were sold off to affluent families or to landlords to carry out manual labour and domestic work. In the medieval period, children were normally placed as trainees under artisans and craftsman. In the modern era with industrial development many children began to get employed in industries. Even today despite many legislations to prevent child labour, a huge section of children is still slaving away for a meagre wage.


This article is based on doctrinal research. This method of research is divided into two different types: analytical and descriptive methods. The author has used information which were already available and analysed those facts. In this article the author mostly used newspaper articles, legislations, Government policies and schemes and articles by scholars.


The practice of employing children in agricultural, domestic and industrial activities is deeply rooted in our society. A variety of factors have contributed towards child labour in India. The reasons for Child labour in India are as follows:

  1. Poverty – Poverty is one of the major factors causing child employment.. When the family is so poor that they cannot fulfil their basic requirements of food, clothing and shelter, they have no other choice but to send their children for work. In India a large section of people is suffering from poverty. In order to sustain themselves, these families send their children out to work and earn a living.
  2. Lack of access to quality education– The lack of access to quality education is also a major cause of child labour. In India, especially in rural areas often there are no proper education facilities and if there are some facilities, they are located too far thus making it difficult to access. Also, for extremely poor families sending their children to school often remains just a dream.
  3. Illiteracy and Ignorance of parents– A large section of India’s population is still illiterate. Illiteracy of parents also is a factor promoting child labour. Illiterate parents lack awareness about the impact of child labour on the development of the child. They are also unaware about the various schemes provided for child education.
  4. Family tradition– Most often child labour is disguised as tradition or custom. Because of this, children from a young age are taught a particular work and are expected to carry on their family tradition. Such parents do not think beyond and believe that their children do not need to be educated or pursue other profession.
  5. Lure of cheap labour– In India even the literate section of people is engaged in the employment of children for domestic work, in factories and shops, etc. This is due to the lure of cheap labour. Children are innocent and easy to manipulate therefore they can pay them less and make them do double the work without much difficulty. Also, there is less chance for theft.
  6. Addiction, disease or disability– Many families suffer due to addiction, disease or disability of the breadwinner. When there is no income due to such factors, often the burden to bring in income falls on the child.

These along with other factors like repayment of debts, poor compliance of laws, greed, etc are causes of child labour in India.


Child labour is an evil which causes great harm to the children as well as to the nation at large. Child labour leads to the following:

  1. Affects the childhood and mental development: Children need to study, play and grow in a healthy and loving environment so that they are mentally developed. Mental development of the child is negatively impacted by child labour. Children lose out on their childhood and are forced to mature much sooner than needed. The hardships faced by them snatch their innocence, happiness and childhood.
  2. Affects adult life: “Child labour prevents children from gaining the skills and education they require to have opportunities for decent work when they become an adult.”[5]
  3. Harmful impact on health of child: Child labour negatively impacts the physical health of the child. Children are sensitive and more prone to sickness and diseases. Children who are employed in industries are exposed to injuries such as cuts, burns, fractures, etc. Also, most of the times children who are employed suffer from physical deformity dur to beatings and abuse.
  4. Poverty: The relation between poverty and child labour is that of a vicious circle. Poverty leads to child labour which does not allow the child to get education and develop the necessary skills for securing well paid jobs. Thus, child labour leads to poverty.
  5. Negative Impact on the Economy of the Nation: As child labour does not allow the child to get education and develop the necessary skills for securing well paid jobs, the economy of the country as a whole suffers.


According to Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Education is essential in preventing child labour. According to Education International, “early schooling is the most effective way of getting children out of the labour market and giving them the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills for finding decent work in the future. Education and training are indispensable drivers of social and economic development, and democracy.”[6]

Education enables a person to make better choices, to be aware about his rights and various schemes available for them. It paves way for a better future. Education helps people to get out of poverty and in turn reduces scope of future child employment.


The Government of India has taken numerous measures to eradicate child labour in India. They are as follows:

  1. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986)”[7] – This Act was introduced for prohibiting the employment of children in certain employments and for regulating working conditions in other employments.
  2. [8] – Children below 14 years are completely prohibited from being employed. Also, adolescents aged 14-18 years are prohibited from being employed in hazardous occupations.
  3. “National Policy on Child Labour (1987)”[9]– This policy was introduced by the government of India for focusing on the  rehabilitation of children who were employed  in hazardous occupations.
  4. “PENCIL”[10]: It is a platform for ensuring effective enforcement of child labour laws.
  5. [11] – Free and compulsory education for children aged 6-14years was made mandatory.
  6. “Many NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, CARE India, Child Rights and You, Global march against child labour, RIDE India, Child line etc. have been working to eradicate child labour in India.”[12]


According to “Malcolm X, Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”[13]

Education plays a very important role in the development of the nation. “India is the 2nd largest populated country in the world has a literacy rate of around 74 percent. India’s literacy rate continues to rise, however, there are many states in the country with low literacy rates. The State with the highest literacy rate of 94% is Kerala and the state with lowest literacy rate of 61.80% is Bihar.”[14]

In Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka[15] the Hon’ble Supreme Court held Right to education is a fundamental right and the state has a duty to provide educational institutions for all classes of citizens. Education is not meant for the rich only.

“The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine.”[16]

 The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009[17]states that every child of the age of 6 to 14 years, including

  1. “a child belonging to such parent or guardian whose annual income is lower than the minimum limit specified by the appropriate Government”[18] or
  2. “a child belonging to the Scheduled Caste, the Scheduled Tribe, the socially and educationally backward class or such other group having disadvantage owing to social, cultural, economic, geographical, linguistic, gender or such other factor, as may be specified by the appropriate Government”[19]

shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of his or her elementary education.[20]

“Samagra Shiksha scheme”[21]– This scheme applies to all children studying in pre-school to class XII. The aim is to provide access to quality education and to provide inclusive classroom environment so that children from all sections of the society get same quality of education.

“Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN)”[22] – This scheme has 2 main objectives:

  1. To improve nutrition of the children in government schools.
  2. To Encourage poor children to go to school.

Also, The Government of India has approved the “New India Literacy Programme (NILP)”[23] which targets all non-literates of age 15 years and above. The scheme includes providing Critical Life Skills, Basic Education, Vocational Skills, Continuing education and Formation and involvement of SHGs.


The type of literature review used in this article is a methodological one. The review focuses on providing insights regarding the various legislations, government schemes and policies, scholarly articles, and other relevant sources to this cited topic.


Based on the review of the various articles, provisions and policies in the above section the first major question that arises is: 1. Whether introduction of education had any impact on child labour in India? The answer to this question is yes. The provision of free and compulsory education along with the availability of the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN) scheme[24] have encouraged and helped many rural and poor families  to send their child to school. However, even now a huge number of children are still employed as child labour. According to NSSO 75th Round[25] 3.3 per cent of males and 3.7 per cent of females of the age group 11-13 years are currently not attending schools. Most of these children choose employment over education.

The second question that arises out of the survey is: Whether majority of the people are aware about the various schemes and measures taken to prevent child labour and encourage education? The answer to that is No. People may be aware of one or two schemes but most of the times it is not enough for them to send their children to schools. Some parents can send their children to school only up to 10th standard or sometimes even less. Due to poverty and lack of awareness many children drop out of school before completing their 10th standard. Also, in rural area schools are located too far for the child to attend daily.

The third question that arises is: Whether majority of the people have access to quality education? The answer to that is No. In India most of the schools do not provide quality education. Only Private schools and a few top-notch government schools provide quality education. However, the poor section of people and rural people are unable to get access to these schools. The schools set up in rural areas and which are accessible to the poor are not up to the mark and do not provide quality education. 


There is still a long way to go before child labour is completely eradicated from India. There are a few suggestions which I believe may be useful in the elimination of child labour. They are:

  1. The Schools in India needs to reviewed annually. Well qualified teachers and other required amenities should be provided in rural schools and government schools for the poor. There should be a check as to how many children are dropping out and why and required changes must be brought in to avoid such situations.
  2. There must be regular awareness programmes conducted to make the rural people and poor people aware about their rights and also about the various schemes and protections available to them.
  3. People who employ children should be punished strictly so that they cannot exploit them.

Children are the pillars of our society. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make sure that they are not exploited and that they receive quality education so that our future is not doomed.

[1] Editorial, “Children’s Day Quotes: Top 10 Inspiring Quotes By Jawaharlal Nehru About Children” The Times of India, Nov. 13, 2020

[2] UNICEF India, available at: (last visited on December 12, 2022).

[3] Editorial, “75 years, 75% literacy: India’s long fight against literacy” The Times of India, Aug. 14, 2022.

[4] International Labour Organization, available at:–en/index.htm (last visited on December 12, 2022).

[5] IAS Express, available at:

[6] Education International, available at:

[7] The Child Labour (Prohibition And Regulation) Act, 1986 (Act 61 of 1986)

[8] Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 (Act 35 of 2016)

[9] Government of India Ministry of Labour and Employment, available at:

[10] PENCIL, available at:

[11] The Right Of Children To Free And Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act 35 Of 2009)

[12] INSIGHTSIAS, available at:

[13] Canva, available at:

[14] Urvashi Rana, “Why education is important for the development of India” The Times of India,Dec 14,2021

[15] AIR 1992 SC 1858

[16] Department of School Education & Literacy, available at:

[17] The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act 35 of 2009).

[18] The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act 35 of 2009), s. 2(e).

[19] The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act 35 of 2009), s. 2(d).

[20] The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act 35 of 2009), s. 3.

[21] Id. at 16.

[22] Id. at 16.

[23] Supra Note16at 6.

[24] Supra Note16at 6.

[25] Education for All In India, available at:

Author: Trishtrya Mancherji

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s