GENEVA — In a major turning point in the global fight against child labor, India has ratified the International Labour Organization’s two core conventions related to the issue.
India’s minister of labor Shri Bandaru Dattatreya deposited his country’s instruments of ratification of the conventions with the ILO in Geneva on Tuesday.
Dattatreya said during a signing ceremony with ILO director general Guy Ryder, on the sidelines of the annual ILO ministerial meeting, that ratification of the two conventions reaffirmed India’s “commitment to a child labor free society.”
“This is a historic step. From today, Convention 182 will cover more than 99 percent of the world’s children and the coverage of Convention 138 will leap from approximately 60 percent to almost 80 percent,” Ryder said, referring to the rules on eliminating the worst forms of child labor and on minimum working age, respectively.
India joins the 169 ILO members that have ratified Convention 138 and the 180 member states that have ratified Convention 182, he said.
The ratification of the two conventions is expected to bring almost half a billion children and adolescents up to 18 years of age under legal protection.
Dattatreya said the newly amended Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which came into effect on Sept. 1, 2016, “now prohibits employment or work of children under 14 years in any occupation or process.”
In addition, he said, the rule “prohibits” the employment of adolescents ages 14 to 18 in hazardous occupations and processes.
The reforms also include provisions for periodic inspections and monitoring.
The long overdue move is expected to enhance efforts by India to stamp out the worst forms of child labor, and improve the prospects of attracting foreign investment in sectors such as textiles, apparel and accessories, among others, that have been marred by child labor abuses, labor diplomats and experts said.
According to senior Indian officials, there are at present about seven million child laborers, down from 10 million in 2011, and 12.6 million in 2001.
The objective, the officials said, is to halve this figure to less than 3.5 million by 2021.
At present, India spends each year about $25 million to rescue and rehabilitate child laborers, officials said.
India’s new ratification obligations, take effect one year from today, ILO officials said.