ChildLabor in Textile Industry in India
ChildLabor in Textile Industry in India
Childlabor is a major problem in the world, particularly in the developingnations like India (Ramaiah & Naidu, 2005, p. 199). In 2001, theworld had approximately 186 million child laborers. Among these, 44million children work in the textile and cotton businesses in India(Srivastava, 2011, p. 1). Textile manufacturing forms one of theearliest industries and the largest employer in India. Additionally,it is the second largest producer of garments and textiles in theworld and contributes to four percent of India’s Gross DomesticProduct by generating a fifth of the total export earnings in thecountry. The industry produces a variety of fibers with elaborateweaving on its manual looms and organic dyes, which has attractedglobal buyers for centuries.
However,the global market has changed due to stiff competition hence, onlythe factories that manufacture at the lowest costs possible thrive asmany are forced to close down (Bhargava, 2003, p. 86). Therefore, thecompetition pushed the Indian textile industries to use unethicalcost reduction strategies such as child labor. Although the 2001census showed that the ratio of child labor in India had decreasedover the past decade, the overall number of the working children hasincreased. Therefore, a large number of children between five andnine years have joined the formal employment sector. Accordingly,India has a widespread economic exploitation of children with morethan 75 million child laborers (Bhargava, 2003 p. 121). Eliminatingchild labor through education is vital in eradicating the cycle ofpoverty in India and help protect the children from physical andpsychological harm associated with working at an early age.
Causesof child labor in India
Thecauses of child labor are varied and numerous as no one factor issolely responsible for this social problem. Nonetheless, poverty andlack of social security are the leading causes of child labor inIndia (Dinesh & Belinda, 2015, p. 69). A large number of thepopulation in India lives in poverty hence, everyone in a family hasto work to sustain their needs. Consequently, most child laborerscome from low-income households, and they are often enticed by thepossibility of making enough money to help their families out ofpoverty (Bhargava, 2003, p. 88). However, the reality is muchdifferent, as these children do not receive any wages for the firstfew months because the employers assume that they are learning theskills before they can officially start working. Even after thenecessary training, the child laborers are paid way below therequired minimum wage. Therefore, it forms a cycle of poverty andgives rise to the need for child labor after every generation(Ramaiah & Naidu, 2005, p. 199).
Onthe other hand, the country has an increasing gap between the richand the poor due to privatization of essential services, which makesit hard for the low-income earners to afford the basic needs (Ramaiah& Naidu, 2005, p. 200). Moreover, the liberal economic policiesused in India are causing unemployment for most people. The parentsare forced to sacrifice their children’s education as they areviewed as a form of economic security, which is necessary to helpincrease their family income. Hence, the situation adversely affectsthe children more than any other age group because it interruptstheir normal development (Bhargava, 2003, p. 86).
Additionally,the need to make profits has created the demand for child laborers inthe country. The textile industry owners use child laborers becausethey are cheaper, which translates to lower costs of production.Unlike adult workers, children do not demand benefits such as socialsecurity and health insurance (Bhargava, 2003, p. 85). Furthermore,many factory owners do not register their businesses so that they cansave on taxes and operate without giving the workers the essentialbenefits or providing favorable work conditions (Dinesh &Belinda, 2015, p. 69).
Althoughmost sections of the textile industry require skilled workers, theyhave managed to incorporate child laborers by reducing them to merehelpers. Accordingly, the textile industry has created three sectorsfor child laborers thus, increasing the demand. First, children workin the power loom factories where some are tasked with oiling themachines and other help the machine operators. The second sector isthe dyeing industry where the cloth is colored. Children working inthese factories mainly carry bundles of dyed fabric. However, theworking conditions in these factories are hazardous due to theharmful chemicals used for dyeing, which can cause burns. Lastly, thetextile market uses child laborers to pack cloth and carry them tothe market. A large number of child laborers are found in this sectorbecause they can earn 20 to 25 percent of their family income (Dinesh& Belinda, 2015, p. 67).
Thenagain, some beliefs promote child labor by validating it use andclaiming that it benefits everyone including the child, their family,the community, and even the country. The belief that the children areexceptionally suitable for works in the textile industry because theyhave nimble fingers that help them work on complex designs haspromoted the use of children in the textile factories (Dinesh &Belinda, 2015, p. 73). For example, children are believed to make thebest products because their nimble fingers can tie tiny knots andunravel the threads from silk cocoons. However, this belief ismisguided because children make cheaper products because only masterweavers can make the best quality saris and other cloth materials(Dinesh & Belinda, 2015, p. 73).
Severaljustifications are also used at the community level to support andpromote child labor. Some people believe that the children have tostart working at an early age of six so that they can become skillfulartisans otherwise, they will never learn any skills (Dinesh &Belinda, 2015, p. 67). Therefore, some people believe that thechildren who start working later at the age of 14 might learn theskills, but they would never pick up speed in their work. Suchbeliefs ensure continuous availability and use of child labor at lowwages.
Effectsof child labor
Childlabor has adverse effects on the child’s physical and psychologicalhealth (Srivastava, 2011, p. 3). The child laborers in the textileindustry work for long, tedious hours, which severely damage theireyesight and hands. The children are underdeveloped because theyspend most of the time sitting in hunched, uncomfortable positions atthe bamboo-framed workstations. Moreover, the children are trapped inan environment of abuse and exploitation, which deprives them theopportunity for healthy development during their teenage years(Srivastava, 2011, p. 3)
Childlabor also hinders education because the children have little or nofree time after work. Most child laborers start work in the morninguntil late evening. Statistics show that 100,000 children work formore than 14 hours per day because they do not have trade unions todemand fair treatment on their behalf. As such, most child laborersin India are illiterate because they never attend school (Dinesh &Belinda, 2015, p. 69). For those who go to school, they usually dropout before meeting the minimum four years required to attain literacybecause they find it difficult to balance both school and work.Furthermore, India does not have laws stipulating compulsoryschooling for any age thus, there are no restrictions as to when achild can start working (Dinesh & Belinda, 2015, p. 69).
Strategiesto Eliminate Child Labor
TheIndian constitution explicitly prohibits child labor and sets theminimum age for employment at fourteen years (Dinesh & Belinda,2015, p. 71). The government has enacted various regulations toprevent child labor, but the textile industries are still using childlaborers to minimize production costs. Taking forceful actions toeliminate the problem of child labor is hard in a nation where 70percent of the people are poor (Bhargava, 2003, p. 89). Nonetheless,in 2014, the Indian government made moderate advancements in theattempts to eliminate the worst form of child labor in the country.The government implemented national labor projects to help childlaborers by providing them loans, alternative livelihoods, and socialprotection programs to deal with the causes of child labor (Ramaiah &Naidu, 2005, p. 201).
Unfortunately,it took over two decades for the country to realize that the strategywas lacking motivation and ambition to lure the children to attendschool. Subsequently, they introduced non-formal education program,which acknowledges the challenges of fighting child labor by takinginto consideration the livelihood of the poor. The program ensuredthat the children could go to work and attended classes after regularhours (Ramaiah & Naidu, 2005, p. 202).
Challengeswhen eliminating child labor in India
Theissues of child labor have assumed significance in the recent timeswhere many volunteers and non-governmental organizations have takenup the task to eradicate child labor. Even as these efforts continue,they have not achieved the desired effect because they face numerouschallenges. First, people are ignorant about the child laborregulations, which makes their implementation difficult (Dinesh &Belinda, 2015, p. 72). The issue of child labor is yet to beconsidered a sensitive social problem in the Indian society. The NGOsand employers who are actively fighting against child labor have notsensitized the issues of child exploitation in the workplaces(Bhargava, 2003, p. 87).
Moreover,the Indian government has not planned or implemented serious actionsto highlight the dangers relating to child labor (Dinesh &Belinda, 2015, p. 71). Additionally, non-cooperation from theemployers has hindered successful implementation of the child laboracts. The employers use child laborers because of the advantages theybring such as lower cost of production. Therefore, some employers inthe textile industry consider employing children and paying themlower wages to be an easy and advantageous option (Dinesh &Belinda, 2015, p. 73). Accordingly, these employers are reluctant tocooperate with the NGOs to enforce the law and eliminate child labor.Parents are also unwilling to cooperate with those enforcing thechild labor acts. Poverty is one of the reasons children take up jobsto supplement their family income (Dinesh & Belinda, 2015, p.68). Therefore, their parents have developed a strict approach wherethey do not support sending their children to school. For example,the parents lie about the actual age of their children so that theycan continue working (Dinesh & Belinda, 2015, p. 73). Then again,the personnel tasked with enforcing the child labor act areunderstaffed and lack the proper equipment to enforce theregulations. Thus, it is hard for them to verify any informationprovided by parents or the employers about the age of a child worker.
Laxityin enforcing the labor laws or other regulations to curb child laborhas also hindered the efforts to eliminate this social problem(Srivastava, 2011, p. 3). Even laws aimed at promoting educationamong children have not been serious enacted by the government.Hence, it is difficult to enforce and prosecute those who break theselaws (Dinesh & Belinda, 201, p. 73). For example, the Indianofficials agreed to introduce a system of compulsory education forall children, but the initiative was never serious considered orimplemented. Furthermore, child labor practices in India are informaland often occur within the family, which makes it hard to track downthe working children. For example, children may accompany and workalongside their parents or older siblings in the textile industry(Dinesh & Belinda, 2015, p. 69).
Althoughchild labor is a well-known social problem, some people have not beenactive in condemning it. They argue that these children have to helpfeed their families because their parents do not earn enough money tomeet their needs (Srivastava, 2011). They claim that these parentsshould not be coerced to send their children to school. Besides, thelow-income families do not see the relevance of sending theirchildren to school because education does not offer an immediatesolution to meet their needs (Bhargava, 2003, p. 86). Some peopleargue that children have no choice, but work if they come from poorbackgrounds. Therefore, these children are more concerned aboutsurvival than education, and the situation will only change if theireconomic conditions improve. Consequently, the child laborers workunder some form of pressure, whether from the parents, economicnecessity, or expectations attached to their social class (Bhargava,2003, p. 89).
Evenso, the fundamental legal protections are not up to the requiredstandard to combat the issue of child labor in India. Hence, the bestway to deal with child labor is to develop strategies that willeliminate poverty in India thus, remove the need for children towork in the textile industries (Bhargava, 2003, p. 62). The idea canbe successful because economic incentive will increase the wages forthe poor parents thus, they will no longer need their children towork. Moreover, the parents will continue to understand theadvantages of sending their children to school (Bhargava, 2003, p.96).
Indianeeds to take compulsory education as one of the best strategies totackle the problem of child labor (Srivastava, 2011, p. 3). Everycountry that has successfully reduced or eliminated child labor hasonly been able to do so by ensuring that all children attaineducation (Dinesh & Belinda, 2015, p. 70). Without firstenforcing compulsory education, it will be impossible for thegovernment to enforce child labor laws. The formal education systemwill make it easier to check school attendance as compared tomonitoring children in the workplace (Ramaiah & Naidu, 2005).Besides, it will be easier to force parents to send their children toschool rather than forcing the employers not to hire children.Education is an instrument for social change, which also contributesto economic prosperity. Therefore, the child laborers in Indiadeserve a chance to study and have the opportunity of a better lifeout of poverty (Srivastava, 2011, p. 3).
Exploitationof child labor has become a serious issue, and unless appropriateactions are taken, this social problem could continue in severalparts of the world as the economic conditions worsen and hindersocial development. Child labor is a major challenge hinderingimprovement of the education standards in India. The primary causehigh rate of child laborers in India is poverty and lack of availableand adequate social security. Therefore, many children start workingdue to the economic pressure their parents endure. However, it isimpossible to eliminate child labor by only focusing on onedeterminant such as education. The government must ensure that theneeds of the poor are met before they can successfully implement thelaws against child labor. Some parents do not consider the importanceof formal education as they believe their children only need to learnthe skills by starting work at an early age. These views disregardthe long-term benefits of education, which contributes to thecontinued supply of child labor. On the other hand, education isinadequate or too expensive in the poorest regions of India thus,the children do not have another option except working. As a result,the children are growing up uneducated and lack social skillsdeveloped when interacting with peers in social settings. Workingchildren experience isolation and sadness, which may lead toemotional and social behavior problems such as aggression and drugabuse. These issues also affect their educational development, asthese children are more likely to perform poorly and eventually dropout of school. Nonetheless, a sense of importance and mission isapparent in India’s resolve to end child labor. The government haslaunched initiatives that will end this social problem if they arewell implemented. Even so, the government realizes the challengesthey will encounter due to resource constraints and difficulty inchanging people’s attitudes towards child labor thus, they set thedeadline of 2020 to have all children removed from occupations. Indiahas a large number of child laborers in the world hence, removingthem from the workplaces and ensuring proper rehabilitation will be amajor challenge. Therefore, the government needs to put more effortsand enforce the child labor regulations to make sure they take effecteven in the poorest regions of the country. When the governmentaddresses poverty, the need for the children to work willautomatically reduce.
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