Child labour is directly linked with the retention in schools and children from all states agreed to this. In the study published in the reportChild Rights in India: An Unfinished Agenda, children were of the opinion that as long as they were going to school, they would not get into labour (except that within the household).
The report was published by Joining Forces For Children – India, an alliance of six leading child development organizations, namely, ChildFund India; Plan India; Save the Children, India; SOS Children’s Villages of India; Terre des hommes and World Vision India working towards the well-being and protection of rights of vulnerable children and young people in India.
Link between child labour and education
Once a child was out of school, both parents and these children consider working to earn money, as the next best alternative, both for the family and for themselves. However, they fail to realise that getting into child labour eliminates all possibilities of the child returning to school.
These discussions with children also corroborated the fact that when children engage in labour at an early age, they get into unskilled jobs. Considering that there are hardly any opportunities for them to get technically/ professionally trained for a particular skill, they tend to remain as unskilled daily labourers for the rest of their lives. Irrespective of whether they stay at home or migrate for work, they remain engaged in unskilled labour.
In the states included in this study, common work for boys were like: driving e-rickshaws, selling petty articles and becoming farm and construction labourers. For girls, the common types of work were: becoming household maids and rolling bidis. Working in household enterprises (shops and farms) is common for both boys and girls across all states, except Himachal Pradesh and Kerala.
While child labour exists in all 11 states included in this study, it has state-specific variations between more progressive states (e.g. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala) and comparatively less progressive states (e.g. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). In the states of Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, children do not engage in child labour, but children from other states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal; are brought into these states to work as child labour. Boys in urban areas of West Bengal revealed that boys in the age group of 15-18 years from their community, migrate to work in different cities like Mumbai, Bhubaneswar, Goa, and Kolkata; where they work as plumbers, masons or as daily labourers.
When asked how child labour can be prevented through community engagement, children had some specific recommendations. Other than general suggestions like creating awareness and informing the Police or Childline to take legal action against the culprits, they could think of some workable options. For instance, in Telangana children said, community should do whatever is required to ensure that all children are going to school; going further, children from Manipur suggested that the community should help the families that cannot afford the education of their children.
In West Bengal, children suggested that the community should check every child’s identity proof to ensure that no child below 18 years leaves the village for work; and in Haryana, children recommended that the community should approach the NGOs to increase the livelihood options for parents. In West Bengal, the police officer interviewed was of the opinion that child labour cannot be prevented due to the absence of livelihood options.