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India: Cabinet Has Approved Amendments to Child Labor Law

(May 20, 2015) On April 14, 2015, India’s Union Cabinet approved amendments to the child labor law among which is the inclusion of an exception that would allow minors, which the law defines as children under the age of 14, to work in certain family enterprises or industries, provided they are not hazardous occupations and the work is done outside of school hours. (Press Release, Government of India, Approval to Move Official Amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 (May 13, 2015) [with “May” as month and ñ??¿” as year, scroll down left column to view hyperlinked headline]; The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (CLPR Act), No. 61 of 1986, Chief Labour Commissioner.)

According to the official press release on the measures the Union Cabinet has specifically proposed the following amendments, among other changes:

1. Employment of children below 14 years prohibited in all occupations and processes and age of prohibition of employment linked to age under Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. However, an exception has been made:

a) where the child helps his family or family enterprises, which is other than any hazardous occupations or processes set forth in the Schedule, after his school hours or during vacations;

b) where the child works as an artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry, including advertisement, films, television serials or any such other entertainment or sports activities except the circus, subject to such conditions and safety measures, as may be prescribed and provided that such work does not affect the school education of the child.

2. A new definition of adolescent has been introduced in the CLPR Act, and employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years of age) has been prohibited in hazardous occupations and processes. These provisions would go a long way in protecting adolescents from employment not suitable to their age. (Press Release, supra.)

The government defends the exemption by citing the need to strike a “balance between the need for education for a child and the reality of the socio-economic condition and social fabric in the country.” (Id.)

The press release also points out “that stricter punishment for employers for violation of the Act has been proposed to act as a deterrent,” and the offense of employing children or adolescents has been made into a cognizable offense, allowing the police to arrest or investigate a possible offense without a warrant. (Id.)

The proposal has drawn criticism from children’s rights activists, “who say the exemption would open the doors for employing children in industries such as matchbox manufacturing, footwear and carpet making and would slow progress in eradicating child labour.” (Rajesh Kumar Singh, Flak for Childhood Tea Seller Modi over Plans for Some Young Labour in India, REUTERS (May 13, 2015).)