Child Labour in India: Extent and Some Dimensions

National Workshop on Socio-Economic Issues in Child Labour: Conference Proceedings, Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute, Ahmedabad

13 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2007

See all articles by Niti Mehta

Niti Mehta

Sardar Patel University - Sardar Patel Institute of Economic & Social Research (SPIESR)


In the conventional sense, labour comprises population between the ages 15 to 59 years. However a significant segment of the population below 15 years of age too is working. The magnitude of the problem of child labour is difficult to ascertain as data on the extent of child labour is not very accurate. The absence of an appropriate survey methodology for probing into the work of children may be one of the reasons. However, child labour participation rates over time have declined significantly in almost all the countries, including in India. The paper compiles the estimates of child labour from 1972-73 onwards using the information available from the NSS rounds. The extent of child labour during 2004-05 has been estimated from the last NSS round, (61st Round) and Census of 2001. Along with the magnitude of child labour, the enrolment of children in school in the age groups of 5 to 14 years has been explored. It is expected that with development the enrolment of children would improve. This aspect has not been captured accurately by the Census or the NSS. The magnitude of "idlers" is quite large (more in NSS as compared to census estimates at 33.9 million), using the government stated enrolment ratio. These children neither work nor are part of the education system. Besides arriving at the estimates and distribution of child labour across the states, their incidence is correlated with that of poverty, unemployment and literacy. The author concludes that apart from caloric norm, incidence of child labour is an important non-caloric parameter of poverty. Illiteracy and deprivation are strongly associated with problem of child labour. Often economic growth actually increases rather than reducing child labour. Poverty alleviation programmes, creating avenues for productive employment, educating parents, improving literacy, compulsory primary and middle levels of education for children below 15 years would all form a more realistic policy response to tackling the problem of child labour.

Keywords: Child Labour, India, Enrollment, Idlers

JEL Classification: E24, I2, J21, J29

Suggested Citation

Mehta, Niti, Child Labour in India: Extent and Some Dimensions. Available at SSRN:

Niti Mehta (Contact Author)

Sardar Patel University - Sardar Patel Institute of Economic & Social Research (SPIESR) ( email )

Thaltej Road
Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380054

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