Kids working in family enterprises drop out of school more

Kolkata, Dec 30 (IANS) More than 60 percent of children working in family-run enterprises are likely to drop out of school, a survey conducted in a West Bengal district revealed on Monday.

The report highlighted the need for a “closer look” at the proposed amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 “legalising use of child labour in such family businesses”.

The study titled “Impact on Overall Development of Children Working in Family Enterprises” was conducted by ActionAid Association and People’s Participation in two municipalities of North 24 Parganas district involving 90 children in the age group of 6 to 14.

Its major findings indicated that the physical and mental health of children working in family enterprises was “negatively impacted” along with school attendance, recreation and overall developmental rights, said Dipankar Mitra from People’s Participation.

Further, the data provides “substantial evidence that in families where children discharge double roles of being students as well as labourers, the propensity among siblings to discontinue education before the age of 18 years is extremely high (63.3 percent)”.

These children were mostly engaged in kite-making, dairy and allied enterprises (making cow dung cakes), candy-making, poultry, hotel/dhaba, ragpicking and waste segregation, according to the survey.

The report flagged many other issues.

“It was found that in many instances, parents or legal guardians do not own the enterprise but it is owned by a relative living in the same native village. So the definition of a family enterprise is not clear,” said Mitra.

The union cabinet in May 2015 approved provisions to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2012 which proposes banning all kinds of child labour under the age of 14.

However, there is an exemption — children below the age of 14 cannot be employed anywhere except in non-hazardous family enterprises or the entertainment industry, but only after school hours and during vacations.

“The amendment has also relaxed the penal provisions for parents or guardians, who were earlier subjected to the same punishment as the employer of the child. Though the proposed amendment recognizes the children in 15-18 age group and prohibits their engagement in any kind of hazardous occupation but it has limited its scope by defining this age group as aadolescents’ and not as children,” said Mitra.

Mitra and other stakeholders of the study said going through with the amendments would enhance the “vulnerability” of children working in family businesses.

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