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Changes to India's Child Labor Law

Publication date: 
Tuesday, November 8, 2016

With 5.8 million children between the ages of five and 17 working in India, the International Labour Organization reports that the incidence of child labor is the highest among any country in South Asia. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that throughout the Indian garment industry, children are spinning yarn, producing silk and cotton fabrics, sewing and embellishing clothing, and working in cotton fields.

With the passage of a new child labor law in India in the summer of 2016, civil society organizations have raised strong concerns that child labor – especially in industries like garment and footwear production and agriculture – may increase.

The FLA notes three specific parts of the law that can increase child labor.  First, while the new law ostensibly prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14, it also clearly provides an exception that children under 14 may work in what the law describes as a “family or family enterprise.”  Second, by expanding the definition of “family” to include not only a child’s mother and father, but all of a child’s brothers, sisters, aunts, or uncles, the opportunities for exploitation increase exponentially. Third, by reducing restrictions on work for adolescents, the law increases the likelihood that children will be involved in apparel manufacturing and agriculture.

Our issue brief below elaborates on problems the new law may cause, and provides recommendations for FLA-affiliated companies on how to address the issue child labor in their supply chains in India.

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