Taking forward the stalled reforms on child labour, the NDA government plans to prohibit employment of children less than 14 years of age.
This is part of the proposed amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, that the labour ministry has begun to review afresh including the suggestions made by the Standing Committee on Labour.
As part of the changes, the ministry also proposes to bar children between the ages of 14 and 18 years, who will be termed as “adolescent” from working in hazardous sectors such as mining. The government will also regulate the working conditions of such “adolescent” workers through periodic inspections of their workplaces.
The move is a significant break given that child labour accounts for nearly 8.5 per cent of the country’s 31.2-crore workforce. Of these, over 1.26 crore children are between 5 and 14 years of age.
According to existing laws, children less than 14 years are permitted to work except in prohibited sectors such as domestic work, automobile workshops, bidi-making, carpet weaving, handloom and power loom industry and mines.
The amendments are expected to align child labour laws with the Factories Act as well as give a boost to the Right to Children for Free and Compulsory Education, ensuring that all children between 6 to 14 years attend school. The labour ministry has also sought public comments on the planned amendments to the Act by end of July.
“We have started the exercise to review the Standing Committee Report was submitted in December last year. The amendments are already with the Rajya Sabha but we will see if any further changes are required,” said a senior labour ministry official.
The UPA government had in December 2012 tabled the amendments Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, in the Rajya Sabha.
Based on it, the Standing Committee had in December 2013 suggested changes including taking a slightly more lenient view of poor parents who make their children work as well as strict monitoring of work place where adolescents are employed.
Further, the panel had also suggested deleting a provision for children working at home after school but had said that the Act should prohibit employment in all occupations where there is a “subordinate relationship of work and labour”.