Ending child labor by 2025 farcical as India plans to allow family work

Tue Sep 15, 2015 8:06pm EDT
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By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thirteen-year-old Sumaila has no time to go to school. From six in the morning until 11 at night, she works with her mother in their one-roomed home, painstakingly pasting tiny fake gemstones onto fabric for the garment factory nearby.

"I don't much like doing this work. It hurts my eyes and my fingers get sore," said Sumaila, sitting cross-legged on the floor of a center for child workers run by a charity in the south Delhi slums of Madanpur Khader.

"But if I don't do it, my mother gets angry. She says if we don't finish all the work, we won't be able to eat."

Sumaila's plight is one faced by millions of child workers across the world and one that global leaders will this month pledge to end by 2025, as part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to improve the lives of the poorest.

But the promise to end child labor has been slammed as farcical by activists in India, who say plans by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to allow children under 14 to work for their families will make achieving such a goal impossible.

"We are making an important pledge to end child labor on the international stage, but back home, we are saying that children who work in family businesses are not part of that deal," said Prabhat Kumar, Save the Children India's head of child protection.

"We cannot achieve this target as part of the SDGs, as this change to the law contradicts it."


Child workers learn at a centre run by Save the Children India, a non-governmental organization, at a slum area in New Delhi, India, August 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee