Child and adult labour in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry of India
with case studies from Tirupur, Bangalore, Jaipur and Trichy
India Committee of the Netherlands, Utrecht
This webpage presents the Introduction and Conclusions and Recommendations of the report|
Child and adult labour in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry of India, with case studies from Tirupur, Bangalore, Jaipur and Trichy.
You can download the complete report here.
List of tables and figures
Definition of terms
The objectives of the study
Realization of objectives and scope of the study
Methodology and research problems
Who is the report meant for?
Contents of the chapters
Map of India
|PART I||EUROPEAN AND INDIAN REGULATIONS AND INITIATIVES: IMPROVING LABOUR CONDITIONS AND ERADICATING CHILD LABOUR|
|Chapter 1||Measures and initiatives in Europe and the Netherlands concerning international labour conditions and child labour|
|1.2 Measures and initiatives|
|Chapter 2||Regulations and initiatives in India related to child labour: Government and NGO|
|2.1 Legislation and policy related to child labour and India's accession to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child|
|2.2 Action in South Asia (India) against child labour: South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS) and Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) in India|
|PART II||THE RESEARCH - CHILD AND ADULT LABOUR IN THE GARMENT AND GEM POLISHING INDUSTRY OF INDIA|
|II-A THE GARMENT EXPORT INDUSTRY OF INDIA: TIRUPUR AND BANGALORE|
|Chapter 3||The garment export industry in India: structure and processes|
|Chapter 4||Child and adult labour in the garment export industry of Tirupur|
|4.2 Child labour in hosiery units: the pull and push factors|
|4.3 Review of literature on child labour in the hosiery industry of Tirupur|
|4.4 Results and discussions of field visits: working conditions of child and adult labour|
|4.5 Case studies of manufacturing units and a labour union in Tirupur|
|4.6 Declarations to end child labour by the hosiery industry in Tirupur|
|4.7 Analysis of the industry's declarations to end child labour in the hosiery industry|
|4.8 Summary of the findings|
|Case studies of child labourers in the garment export industry of Tirupur|
|Chapter 5||Adult labour in the garment export industry of Bangalore|
|5.2 Cheap female workforce: the causes|
|5.3 Results and discussions of field visits: working conditions of adult labour|
|5.4 Case study of a garment manufacturing unit in Bangalore|
|5.5 Summary of the findings|
|II-B THE GEM POLISHING EXPORT INDUSTRY OF INDIA: JAIPUR AND TRICHY|
|Chapter 6||Child and adult labour in the gem polishing export industry of Jaipur|
|6.2 Structure of the gem polishing industry|
|6.3 Processes: from rough to finished gem stone|
|6.4 Influx of child labour and expansion of the industry: the pull and push factors|
|6.5 Results and discussions of field visits: working conditions of child and adult labour|
|6.5.1 Results and discussions|
|6.5.2 Upward mobility: for whom?|
|6.5.3 Child labour in the gem polishing industry: tradition or exploitation; work or labour?|
|6.6 Former Government's Scheme to eliminate child labour from the gem polishing industry of Jaipur|
|6.6.1 Evaluations and criticism by involved actors and organisations|
|6.6.2 Legislation related to child labour implemented under the Government's Scheme|
|6.7 Proposed plan of action by the Rajasthan Government, 1995-96|
|6.8 Unicef's support for 'Joyful Learning': an alternative to the Special School?|
|6.9 Summary of the findings|
|Case studies of child labourers in the gem polishing export industry of Jaipur|
|Chapter 7||Bonded child labour in the synthetic gem polishing industry of Trichy|
|7.1.1 Bonded (child) labour|
|7.1.2 Review of a study on bonded (child) labour in the synthetic gem polishing industry in Tamil Nadu|
|7.2 Results and discussions of field visits: working conditions of bonded child labour in Trichy|
|7.2.1 Trichy Gem Park|
|7.2.2 Cases of synthetic gem stone manufacturing units|
|PART III||CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS|
|Appendix 1||Research questions and child labour questionnaire|
|Appendix 2||Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act of 1986|
|Appendix 3||United Nations Covention on the Rights of the Child (Excerpts)|
|Appendix 4||The Fair Trade Charter for Garments|
Last month I decided to buy a new shirt. All the shirts which had my interest in one of the many retail shops in Holland, were reasonably priced. I asked the saleswoman where the shirts were manufactured and under what conditions. The sales woman said that she did not know the answer. The only thing she knew was that 'a lot of clothing has been imported from far away countries like China and India'. 'Labour costs are lower in those countries' she added in the end.
Today, the world is in a phase of transition in terms of integration of economic activities between nations on a global scale. Developing countries compete to get a higher share in the world market for products which are in increasing demand by consumers in the developed countries. The competition seems to be based rather on minimising cost of labour than on maximizing the skill of labour. Child Labour and bad labour conditions are increasingly related to this phenomenon.
Though the integration of economic activities in the world always has existed, today the process takes place on a larger scale and has to satisfy demand in a tighter time schedule. Developed countries still shift labour intensive parts of their production to 'cheap labour economies' and, to save time, they subcontract work to their local informal sector because of its fast and flexible working methods. Developing countries, which often have huge debt problems combined with unemployment, need the access to international markets and, therefore, stimulate export-oriented industries to generate employment and foreign exchange with which they partly solve their balance of payment problems. The majority of these developing countries, like China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, to mention a few, have a competitive edge on cheap bulk consumer products like bed sheets, garments (e.g. T-shirts, shirts and nightwear), shoes, but also on carpets and some food products. But, their competitive edge is based on the availability of a large, cheap, docile and flexible workforce: mainly women and children of the poorest section of society who are employed in the informal sector where terms and conditions of employment are poor. Employers of labour intensive industries in developing countries, subcontract parts of the production to smaller units, which often are unregistered, and/or deliberately divide the industrial establishment into small units to escape the laws which regulate labour conditions. Exploitation of the workers is the consequence of this process; workers are often unregistered, temporary, unorganised and are getting less than minimum wages for long hours of work without the protection of social security. Also the web of divided subcontracted units makes it more difficult for labour inspectors or controlling bodies to check on violations of the existing (labour) laws and human rights.
The process of international integration of economic activities through liberalizing international trade has pushed more workers into the informal sector of both developing and developed countries. In the developing countries, more than in the developed countries, this has led to the economic exploitation of children in the production of goods both for the export and the domestic market. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more children are possibly involved in the urban informal sector than in the agricultural sector, because of fast growing migration into the cities and the decentralization of production units1.
Child labour in the world
The problem of child labour is not a new phenomenon, but was never highlighted as it is today. It is important to make a distinction between 'child labour' and 'child work'. Child work means that the child has time for play and education besides work. Child labour, however, refers to children who are being forced to carry out the full-time work of adults. The child labourers, no matter if they work full-time in the household, in workshops, factories or in the agricultural sector, are deprived of education, play and a normal childhood. Child labourers can also be 'bonded', which means that the children are forced to work for an employer or 'master' to pay back the loan (plus often high interest) which his or her (grand)parents once received from the landlord/employer. These bonded child labourers have to obey the master and are entirely at his mercy.
Child labour is a universal problem, it exists all over the world but it is concentrated in the developing countries (98%). At present the number of working children in the world ranges between 100 and 200 million according to the International Labour Organization, and the number is growing. The populations in the developing countries show sustained growth rates which only increases the magnitude of the problem of child labour. Since a few years, the aspect that children are used as economic assets in certain manufacturing, processing and mining industries is frequently and widely covered by the international media. Especially the reports on the toil and sweat and inhuman exploitation of children working in manufacturing (export) industries like the carpet and garment2 industry in India and garment industry in Bangladesh have shocked the international community deeply. The international community became aware of its own link with the bad working conditions and the child labour problem in export-oriented industries catering to western consumers. This resulted in international pressure of various kinds like, for example, a proposal made by the US to ban all imported products which are made by children, called the Harkin's Bill.
In the countries where child labour exists, it is often stated that poverty is the main reason why children are sent to work and that poverty should first be solved to eradicate child labour. But, as experts state, 'child labour also perpetuates poverty as children become part of the destructive inter-generational cycle of repetitive impoverishment' 3, 'child labour adds to unemployment of adults as they take the jobs of as many unemployed adults, reduces the need for technological innovations which is so essential to the expansion of exports' 4, 'holds wages down and, hence, increases the number of families living below the poverty line' 5. Two important causes of child labour as stated by many labour experts, are the vested interest of employers in cheap child labourers and the inefficiency and inadequacy of existing primary education facilities. The first cause implicates that child labour serves the interest of employers; they can pay low wages, extract more work, make maximum profit and remain free of any labour unrest. Child labourers are also victims of physical, mental and sexual abuse by employers. The second cause implicates that children lose interest in education because Government schools are often poorly run and maintained, lack teaching materials and (motivated) teachers.
Child labour in India
India is the country with the largest number of working children. There are no up-to-date and generally accepted statistics on child labour in India. Official estimates vary between 17 million7 and 44 million8 child labourers under 14 years of age. Estimates made by respected NGOs range between 55 million and over 100 million. In the latter number all the children between 5 and 14 years who do not go to school are included. India has a total population of over 900 million people, which shows the magnitude of the child labour problem in India.
The majority of the child labourers in India works with their parents in the agricultural sector. Mainly girls work as full-time housemaids, often for the middle class. Children, boys and girls, work in factories and workshops where they clean and pack food, weave carpets, sew and embroider garments, glue shoes, carry molten glass, cure leather, make matches, locks and firework, and polish gem stones, to mention a few occupations. Besides, children work in restaurants and a large number is self-employed, hawking everything from cigarettes to flowers. Children even sell themselves as prostitutes. Other work children are doing is scavenging for and sorting garbage, crushing bricks and stones and working in road constructions and mines. These are not exclusive categories and may overlap.
While there are conflicting data regarding the number of children who are employed in the workplace, 'it is observed that the economic exploitation of children in India is extensive and appears to have increased over recent years' 9. Another observation is that child labour imposed a great cost on the economy of India in terms of 'the opportunity lost to develop the country's human resources'.
India is one of the countries which are in the race for getting a larger share of the world trade with the aim to partly solve its debt, unemployment and poverty problem. Since its economic reforms of 1991, India is actively involved in opening up its market to the world market. In a fast tempo India is changing from an economy where the rules were set by the Government into a market economy. To reduce its above mentioned problems, India makes use of many economic growth mechanisms; besides inviting (foreign) investments, the Government of India is stimulating export-oriented industries. The most lucrative, labour intensive and competitive export-oriented industries, like the gem and jewellery and garment industry, are supported most by the Government in terms of investments and tax exemptions etc., since they bring in much foreign exchange and generate employment. According to the Confederation of Indian Industries, the competitive edge in these industries and other major foreign exchange earners like the carpet, brass artware, handloom, tea industry etc., is partly provided by child labourers10, 'as they are paid less than adults and do not demand social security benefits and are, therefore, able to produce goods at a lower cost' 11. On the other hand, a recent ILO study12 indicates that some industries with a large number of child labourers, like for example the glass-bangles and diamond polishing industry, can very well survive without child labour. Child labour, however, increases the profits. Though the above mentioned industries are supported by the Government to increase their exports, they are at the same time neglected by the Government in terms of labour inspections and the regulations of the terms and conditions of work of the (casual) workforce.
Thus, India's competitive position in the world market is now partly based on the fact that it can provide both domestic and foreign investors with the cheapest, most flexible and docile workforce which is mainly working in the informal sector and 'of whom the majority consists of children and women, who are self employed, casual, contract, temporary, seasonal or migrant workers' 13. Industries and workshops, which operate in the informal sector in India, do not come within the purview of labour legislation, labour unions are opposed by these industries and workers are hindered to organise themselves; no collective bargaining agreement exists in the unequal relationship between the employer and the (child) worker, to improve the terms and conditions of their work.
The latest Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act of 198614 in India, prohibits child labour in selected hazardous occupations and processes but allows it if these occupations and processes are carried out in family-run workshops. The Act regulates child labour in all occupations and processes other than those which are mentioned in the 'prohibition part', whether these take place in the formal or informal sector, in a family or a non-family enterprise. The Act, however, contains many loopholes. For example, the Act does not say that the hazardous occupations and processes of the 'prohibition part' must be regulated if carried out in a family enterprise. Also, the Act does not include all kinds of employment like, for example, work in the household and parts of the agricultural sector. It means that the children who work in the household, or who work in the agricultural sector other than at a 'farm' or in a family enterprise and carry out occupations and processes which are mentioned in the 'prohibition part' of the Act, can be exploited endlessly. Researchers and the Confederation of Indian Industry say that the Act only refers to the organized sector which is around 8%15 to 15%16 of the child labour force. Apart from many loopholes which exist in this and other acts related to child labour, there is a lack of political will. This can be partly concluded from poorly implemented legislation, hardly any control on violations of acts concerning child labour and the lack of implementation of compulsory primary education. A review of legislation and programmes of the Government to eliminate child labour will be discussed in chapter 2.
Regarding compulsory education, 'in India it is reasoned that the poor gain when their children are employed, in other countries it has been argued that the poor are made worse off because the employment of children drives down the wages and employment of adults. Elsewhere it is reasoned that children would be better off with six years of schooling than with early employment: a literate young person is likely to be more productive and to earn more than someone who has had no education and whose health may have been damaged by early entrance into the workforce. Child labour is not simply a consequence of poverty, but one of its causes and its removal (which means that children are in school) is likely to increase the well-being of the poor' 17. No country has successfully ended child labour without first making education compulsory 18. As long as school is not compulsory children will enter the labour force. If primary education were made compulsory in India, it would be easier to monitor school attendance than to monitor children in the workplace, and easier to force parents to send their children to school than to force employers not to hire children. The new United Front Government, which is ruling since June 1996, has made a declaration, that 'the right to free and compulsory education shall be made a fundamental right and enforced through suitable statutory provisions' 19.
'The objective of the development of an economy is to raise its people's standard of living. Keeping this in view, labour problems in a developing economy deserve special study and attention. The labour force as a whole is the abundant resource available in the economy and therefore its sustained and stable growth depends in a very large measure upon the proper utilisation of this resource. Problems of industrial labour (in the formal and informal sectors of the economy) deserve a special study because this section of the labour force is directly faced with the problems and consequences of the development of the country's economy. The rate of growth and the nature of industrial civilization in the country depends on the extent to which their problems are solved successfully' 20.
Concluding from the above, child labour and exploitation of workers in the informal and formal sector do not fit in any developing nor developed economy, including India. Children who work full-time and who are deprived of elementary education, health care and play, will in the long run affect the economy adversely. Because they are children, they are easier to exploit, to intimidate and to dictate, whether they are working in the formal or informal sectors of the economy. The employer is abusing his power in the unequal employer-(child) worker relation. Child labour, therefore, needs to be eradicated and working conditions and standards of adult labourers should be improved. Poverty alleviation and employment generation do not only depend on high growth rates but also on policies designed to achieve distributive justice for the lowest strata of the Indian society.
In order to find proper and sustainable solutions to the problem of the exploitation of (child) labour in India, more detailed information is needed on the terms and conditions of child and adult labour, especially in the informal sector of industries of India, and to study the pull and push factors which cause child labour.
Due to the present change of the Indian economy and the globalisation of some economies, the need came to take a closer look into the child and adult labour problem in export-oriented industries with the focus on child labour. India is actively participating in the world trade through competing with child labour intensive industries like the textile, garment and gem polishing industry. These industries also are the highest foreign exchange earners for India.
The garment and gem polishing industry in India have been chosen for this study because these industries are largely operating in the informal sector and employ mainly women and children. Chosen is for the knitted garment or 'hosiery' industry in Tirupur (State of Tamil Nadu), the garment industry in Bangalore (State of Karnataka) and the gem polishing industry in Jaipur (State of Rajasthan) and Trichy (State of Tamil Nadu).
Concerning child labour, the hosiery industry in Tirupur and the gem polishing industry in Jaipur are selected, since both have an extensive child labour force and are major manufacturing centres in India and have an important place in India's export policy in terms of earning foreign exchange.
Tirupur, which produces 75% of the total cotton 'hosiery' or knitted garment output of India21, employs an estimated 8,000-10,00022 to 25,000-35,00023 child labourers out of a total work force of 350,000 workers who work in the hosiery industry. The expansion of the hosiery industry in Tirupur, which was caused by an increased international demand for knitted garments since 1980, has led to the employment of more child labourers24.
In Jaipur, Rajasthan, where 95% of the exported coloured gem stones in India are cut, shaped and polished, an estimated 200,00025 artisans work in the gem polishing industry. The total workforce includes 10,00026-13,60027 children under 14 years of age. The majority of the total labour force is Muslim (95% 28). It is in the gem polishing industry of Jaipur that recently experts have observed a great influx of children due to a growing international demand for gem stones29.
Trichy, a city in Tamil Nadu, is among the 5% remaining other gem polishing centres in India where mainly synthetic gem stones are cut, shaped and polished. It is estimated that out of the total workforce of around 60,000 artisans, 8,000-10,00030 are under the age of 14. In this industry most of the working children are bonded child labourers31.
Concerning adult labour, the focus is on the garment industry in Bangalore. Bangalore is another example of a garment manufacturing centre which is thriving on cheap labour: women workers32 who are the cheapest workers after child labourers. Of the total workforce of 250,000 workers, it is estimated that 80% 33 is female. In Tirupur and Jaipur, some information on adult labour was gathered also but, as mentioned earlier, the focus in these places has been on child labour.
The objectives of the studyThe objective of the present research project is three-fold.
The first objective is to get more detailed information on the terms and conditions of work of child and adult labourers, with the focus on child labour, in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry of India, on the structure and processes of these industries and the international trade of their manufactured products; garments and gem stones.
Areas which are included in 'terms and conditions' of employment of children are: social background and religion, ages, wages, working hours and employment, family size and income and reason for working, opinion of working children on child labour, education, recreation, working circumstances, health hazards, future plans and a separate section on the working girl child.
Areas which are included in 'terms and conditions' of adult workers are: working hours and overtime work, wages, statutory benefits and labour unions, casual and temporary state of workers and health hazards.
The second objective is to find out what are the pull and push factors which cause child labour in the garment and gem polishing industry.
The former Government of India had formulated a National Child Labour Policy in 1987 to speed up the implementation of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act of 1986. According to this policy ten hazardous industries were identified and selected for priority action to tackle the problem of child labour through non-formal education, employment and income-generating schemes for poor parents of working children and awareness raising of the local community of the negative aspects of child labour. The gem polishing industry in Jaipur is one of the ten selected industries.
The third objective is to find out the results of the Government's scheme to eradicate child labour in the gem polishing industry in Jaipur. Has the scheme reached its projected aims? Can the scheme function as a model for other areas with a high concentration of child labourers?
Realization of objectives and scope of the study
During 6 months of research in 1995-96 in India, the objectives have been realized through (in-depth) interviews with child labourers in the hosiery industry in Tirupur and the gem polishing industry in Jaipur and Trichy, and through (in-depth) interviews with adult workers in the garment industry of respectively Tirupur and Bangalore and the gem polishing industry of Jaipur and Trichy. The in-depth interviews with the child labourers give an insight in the mechanisms, the pull and push factors, which cause children to be sent to work instead of to school. The in-depth interviews with the adult workers in Bangalore, mainly women, give an insight in their specific problems which are mainly related to working in an export-oriented industry. Information on labour conditions and standards were also gathered through visits to garment and gem polishing manufacturing units in the respective places.
Further data have been collected through interviews with NGOs working in the field of (child) labour, journalists, researchers, Unicef India, labour unions, government officials, exporters, Export Councils, employers, parents, a teacher and, last but not least, (child) labourers who are working in the garment and gem polishing industry. Also secondary information has been gathered either through information and reports given by researchers and labour experts from organizations or from libraries.
In total, 51 child labourers were interviewed in and outside the work place. Out of the 51 child labourers, 20 child labourers were interviewed in detail, 8 in Tirupur and 12 in Jaipur. Other child labourers were interviewed on the job during visits to the manufacturing units in Tirupur, Jaipur and Trichy. Eighteen women and 4 men who are working in the garment industry of Bangalore, were interviewed in detail also.
Methodology and research problemsNo formal questionnaire was used for the interviews with the many organisations and concerned people. A set of research questions formed the basis of the most important questions for the interviews. The research questions cover questions related to terms and conditions of child and adult labour in the garment and gem polishing industry, the structure and production processes of both the industries and the international trade of the garments and gem stones.
For the in-depth interviews with child labourers, a questionnaire has been used which was translated into Hindi and Tamil, the two local languages of respectively Jaipur and Tirupur. The set of research questions and the child labour questionnaire are included in appendix 1.
Due to the sensitivity of the topic of child labour in India, especially in the garment export industry in Tirupur, it was often difficult to get detailed information on child labour from employers and exporters, but also from government officials, who were of the opinion that other countries should not interfere with the terms and conditions of work of labour in India. A second researcher was supposed to be contracted in India to join me during field visits, but a suitable person could not be found. Therefore, I had to go on field visits on my own which sometimes limited me in gathering information especially when manufacturing unit owners did speak little English. Being a woman sometimes restricted me during field visits as it is not common for a woman to do research on her own, especially in Tirupur and the villages around Trichy in Tamil Nadu and the Muslim areas in Jaipur. Being of the female sex, however, happened to be advantageous for getting access to the homes of girl child labourers in Jaipur, who due to the Muslim religion, are not allowed to go outside the house or see non-family males inside the house.
The present study does not have the intention to be comprehensive or exhaustive on the issue of child labour. It is an endeavour to unveil part of the terms and conditions of the employment of child and adult labour in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry in India, and to unveil the most important pull and push factors which partly cause child labour in these two industries.
Who is the report meant for?
The information gathered in this study is meant for the public in general as consumers, policy makers, governmental and non-governmental organizations and all people involved in programmes and/or initiatives which have the aim to eradicate child labour and/or improve terms and conditions of work of adult labourers in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry in India in specific, and eradication of child labour and improving terms and conditions of workers in the informal and formal sector in India in general. The information in this report may be helpful in (re)designing policy and action plans of organizations, action groups, labour unions, government and non-government bodies in India as well as in other countries which are involved in international measures and initiatives related to labour conditions and child labour.
Contents of the chapters
This report is divided into three parts.
Part I describes regulations and initiatives in Europe and India which concern the improvement of labour conditions and the eradication of child labour. Within Part I, chapter 1 describes these measures and initiatives in Europe and the Netherlands with a distinction between the political level and the economic level, and chapter 2 does the same for India but with a distinction between Government and Non-governmental Organization (NGO).
Part II gives the results of the present research on child and adult labour in the garment and gem polishing export industry of India. Part II-A describes the garment industry in India and part II-B describes the gem polishing industry in India. Within part II-A, chapter 3 briefly reviews the garment industry in general: the structure and processes. Chapter 4 gives the results of the research on child and adult labour in the garment industry of Tirupur: the main push and pull factors which cause child labour in the hosiery industry in Tirupur, working conditions, case studies of garment manufacturing units and a labour union in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu. The same chapter also gives an analysis of declarations made by the garment industry to end child labour. Chapter 5 gives the results of the research on adult labour in the garment industry of Bangalore, Karnataka: the causing factors behind the mainly female labour force in the garment industry, working conditions and a case study of a garment manufacturing unit in Bangalore.
Within part II-B, chapter 6 gives the results of the research on child and adult labour in the gem polishing industry of Jaipur, Rajasthan: the structure, processes, the main pull and push factors which cause child labour in the gem polishing industry of Jaipur. Chapter 6 also gives an overview of the former Government's scheme which aims at the elimination of child labour in the gem polishing industry of Jaipur, and an evaluation of and criticism on the scheme given by involved actors and organizations. Chapter 6 describes a possible alternative to the scheme, 'Joyful learning', an initiative of school teachers in Tonk District in Rajasthan to make primary school more interesting and adequate for children and improve enrolment involving the parents and the local community. Chapter 7 gives the results of the research on bonded child labour in the gem polishing industry in Trichy, Tamil Nadu: a description of 'debt bondage' which is prevalent in the gem polishing industry of Tamil Nadu, information on the Trichy Gem Park, a training centre which once was partly owned by the state government but which is a private company today, and working conditions in manufacturing units in the centre of Trichy and a unit which is located in a remote village in Trichy district.
Map of India
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Chapter 8 ConclusionsOn the basis of the findings, the following conclusions can be drawn:
(on child labour in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry of India)
For both, the garment export industry in Tirupur and in Bangalore as well as the gem polishing export industry in Jaipur, it has been found that their expansion, due to an increased international demand by European countries and the US for garments and (semi-)precious gem stones, caused an increase in the number of economically exploited child and adult labourers. When children are concerned this caused more school drop outs and illiterate children. It has been found that the labour of children who work in the above mentioned industries interferes with their mental, physical and social development.
Especially in the garment industry as compared with the gem polishing industry the children are physically and economically exploited. Though the children in the garment industry earn higher wages than the children in the gem polishing industry, they are forced to work more hours per day and also in the nightshift because export orders have to be completed in time. This puts a tremendous stress on the children. The majority of the children in the garment industry of Tirupur suffers from exhaustion. This is even more the case for the children who have to combine work with education in the evening in non-formal education centres.
Employers of both the industries have a vested interest in child labour because they can pay the children a fraction of what an adult should be paid for the same job and, hence, can make more profits. When the child starts working he or she performs simple tasks, but after a few years work, while the child is still younger than 14 years, the child does almost all the jobs which adults do with the same speed and skills for the same number of hours per day. After a few years of working, the child earns still less than an adult.
The 'pull factor' which partly caused an increase in the number of child labourers in the hosiery industry of Tirupur as well as in the gem polishing industry of Jaipur, was the expansion of both industries. The expansion of both industries is caused by an increased international demand for garments and precious and semi-precious gem stones respectively. The expansion created an extra demand for cheap (child) labour. In Tirupur also the structure of the industry - a second pull factor - partly caused child labour. The majority of the manufacturing units in Tirupur are specialized in only a few processes (called 'job working') of the garment production chain. Among the manufacturers there is a system of networking. The fragmentation of the production process into many small (job working) units, allowed the owners of these units to flout (child) labour laws. The manufacturers of these job working units employed many children in operations which involved only a small period of training for acquiring the skill.
The 'push factors' which partly caused child labour in the hosiery industry of Tirupur were the relatively high wages of the child labourers, the existence of poor and inadequate primary education facilities in Tirupur, poverty of the parents who either are unemployed or who have low income jobs or who have a sick family member, and migration of the family to Tirupur. In the case of migration children where withdrawn from school and they never enroled again in Tirupur.
The 'push factors' which partly caused child labour in the gem polishing industry of Jaipur were: the recent migration of families to Jaipur, increasing wages of child labourers, and the socio-cultural context of parents: their positive attitude towards work and their negative attitude towards the existing primary education facilities in Jaipur.
Although poverty is an important cause (push factor) of children being sent to work, equally important causes are: lack of awareness of the negative aspects of child labour and of the positive role education can play in the improvement of their children's future. In Tirupur it was observed, however, that the existence of free non-formal education centres and a NGO who made parents aware of these centres and the positive aspects of education, motivated parents to send their children to these centres but not to withdraw them from work. In Jaipur it was observed that the majority of Muslim parents even had a positive attitude towards work, which led to sending their children to work at a very young age (i.e. 5-6 years) and hence caused total illiteracy of their children. In Jaipur it was also observed, however, that adults with some level of education, who had started working at the age of around 15 years, had a shorter apprenticeship period, grasped the skills earlier and could, because they were educated, demand higher wages at an earlier time in their career. This implicates that awareness-raising of the parents of the positive effects of elementary education is very important.
The existing primary education facilities in Jaipur as well as in Tirupur are not adequate, meaningful and attractive for children. If children were enroled, these facilities were not adequate to keep children in school. This was stronger in Tirupur than in Jaipur.
The working girl child, both in the garment and gem polishing industry, is burdened with more work than the boy child; she is needed in the household whenever she is free and has to take care of siblings next to her regular job. This has serious repercussions on her health. Because the girl child is also needed in the household next to her economic activities, she is often withdrawn from school earlier than the boy child and never has time to play. This affects her educational and social development negatively.
As part of the growing movement in India against child labour, the two largest networks of non-governmental organizations against child labour - the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS) and the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) - have taken up the issue of child labour in the garment industry in Tirupur. This has already made a discernable impact on the exporters and their associations who have promised to phase out child labour in the garment industry.
In India itself the initiatives concerning the issue of child labour in the garment industry have created a climate in which also the European importers, retailers and consumers can play a positive role by demanding garments produced without child labour, and under decent labour conditions for adults.
When child labour is almost absent in an industry, women labour is the next section of the labour force which is prone to exploitation. The export-oriented garment industry in Bangalore is an example of this phenomenon. If children are going to be replaced by adults, women are the next 'target group'. This asks for measures to improve their working conditions as well, like: the right to collective bargaining, a 'need based' minimum wage, permanent employment, the availability of a creche at the workplace, social security and regular checks on a normal working day of 8 hours without working overtime, in nightshifts or on Sundays.
European retailers, chain-stores and buying houses are contributing to economic exploitation of children and women workers by buying garments from manufacturers in Tirupur and Bangalore if they do not require from their supplier(s) to abide by minimum labour norms like absence of child labour, 'need based' wages, a permanent employment contract, social security, the right to collective bargaining, a normal 8-hour working day etc. The market-driven push to purchase garments at the lowest possible price, without taking these basic labour standards into consideration, will lead to continued exploitation of children and other workers.
The government of Tamil Nadu does not acknowledge bonded (child) labour in its state and is unwilling to do something about the problem of bonded (child) labour which is prevalent in the synthetic gem polishing industry in and around Trichy and other parts in Tamil Nadu.
Due to the absence of an enforcement machinery in Tamil Nadu, especially in the rural areas, and of job alternatives for poor and irregular agricultural activities due to heavy droughts, synthetic gem stone manufacturers and entrepreneurs have a monopoly in generating employment and can continue the system of debt bondage. Bonded child labourers, who carry the debt of their parents with them for the rest of their lives, are not free to move to other jobs and/or areas and can never go to school again. Employers pay very low wages because the workers have a debt with them which can be ten to a thousand times their wage. The parents (and the bonded (child) labourers) are not able to pay back the debts and the ever increasing interest.
In the rural areas of Tamil Nadu, a lack of programmes for agricultural development, alternative income-generating projects and (government) support to form synthetic gem stone worker-cooperatives, forces many under- and unemployed people to take up the job of synthetic gem stone polishing. They become victims of the system of debt bondage which is practised by local entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs control almost the whole region of Tamil Nadu, especially the areas of Trichy and Pudukottai District. Bonded child labour, especially in the growing synthetic gem stone industry of Tamil Nadu, is the consequence.
(on solutions to the problem of child labour in the hosiery export industry of Tirupur and the gem polishing export industry of Jaipur)
The combination of work and a few hours of education per day, is not a solution to end child labour and improve the qulaity of their life; after a day of hard work children are too tired to concentrate in school. The making of homework is disrupted because children, especially girls, are also needed to help in the household and to take care of siblings. This has been observed in Tirupur where children were found working in the export-oriented garment industry and combined this work with non-formal education in the evening.
The Government's action plan to eliminate child labour from the gem polishing industry in Jaipur, has proved to be unrealistic and cannot function as a model to eliminate children from other industries or areas. The scope of the action plan, implemented by 20 special school and 50 non-formal education centres, is too limited. Out of 15,000 child labourers, only 1,000 children under 14 years of age could be weaned from the industry through the 20 special schools. The 50 non-formal education centres which are supposed to give non-formal education every day to around 1,500 child labourers next to their work in the industry, are irregularly attended by the child labourers and lack motivated teachers. Thus, 1,000 children are covered by the programme and around 1,500 child labourers get some non-formal education, but around 12,500 child labourers do not get any form of protection since also the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act and other legislation have been hardly enforced. Parents got upset because only one child in a family (with often 5 to 9 children) could be admitted in a special school and the parents had to buy food and school items which were supposed to be provided by the schools.
It is not known how many child labourers in Jaipur are completely illiterate and how many combine work in the gem industry with going to a government or private school; no census has been held to make an estimate of the number of child labourers in the gem polishing industry in Jaipur.
Further, lack of involvement of the local community, parents and teachers in the decision making and implementation of the special school, inadequate funds and the absence of a promised awareness-raising programme and income-generating projects for poor parents of working children, are the main factors why the schools did not achieve their aims; children were still found working in the industry after school hours.
Whatever may be the programme to eliminate children from the industry, or to improve school enrolment, if the local community, NGOs, parents and teachers are not involved in decision making and implementation, the programme will fail.
Child labour in India will continue as long as:
- the primary education system is not compulsory, not free and inadequate;
the parents lack sufficient income, do not see the relevance of education due to the non-existence of good education possibilities, are not aware of the negative aspects of child labour;
the Government does not declare a total ban on all kinds of child labour, instead of prohibiting them in only a few hazardous occupations and processes; and, last but not least,
- the law enforcement and controlling machinery is inadequate.
- children will keep on dropping out of schools;
- parents will keep on sending their children to work; and,
employers will keep on employing children in all kinds of professions and exploiting them while violating the laws, for which crime nobody is punished.
Chapter 9 Recommendations
Because the number of economically exploited child labourers has increased and the working conditions are poor in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry in India, partly due to an increased international demand for products like garments and gem stones, importers should demand from Indian exporters and manufacturers of these products not to employ children and to comply with certain minimum labour conditions like a 'need based' wage, the right to collective bargaining, an 8-hour working day, health protection, social security, etc. Importers should take their responsibility and demand an improvement in the general labour conditions along the subcontracted chain, and support programmes to train unemployed adults and parents in the skills of the industry so that they can replace the children.
As far as the garment industry in Tirupur is concerned, the industry is open for dialogue, and importers, but also action groups, NGOs, labour unions etc. should be made aware of this. Export Promotion Councils in India and Business Promotion Councils in Europe, European retail companies and chain-stores and their suppliers, should be brought together to open a discussion on the subject of child labour and bad working conditions, and to arrive at solutions and ways to implement these solutions.
The Fair Trade Charter for Garments (see appendix 4), launched by the Clean Clothes Campaign in the Netherlands and by other similar organizations in other European countries, could be an important instrument to improve labour and living conditions of workers in the export-oriented garment industry in India. The Clean Clothes Campaign supports with this instrument activities of Indian labour unions and NGOs which also aim to improve basic labour conditions of workers in the garment industry. Collaboration is needed for the implementation of the Charter.
Although child labour is prevalent among the poorest sections of Indian society, it is not only caused by economic compulsions but also because of lack of awareness of the negative aspects of child labour and, hence, of the positive role that education can play in improving the quality of living conditions of people. Lack of adequate and attractive primary education facilities is also a main contributing factor to child labour. Therefore, efforts have to be made on this front, especially among the poorest sections of society.
National and international organizations should continue to pressurize the Government of India to make primary education free, compulsory, meaningful, attractive and joyful. They can also play an important role in awareness-raising, e.g. by designing, implementing, supporting and communicating school-related projects which have been set up and in which the local community, parents and teachers are actively involved.
It has been found that migration from the rural areas, due to the local lack of job opportunities for the parents, breaks the school career of children, who are never enroled again but sent to work in places where the job opportunities are better. It is therefore recommended to make more detailed studies on the problem of child labour related to migration, because of under- and unemployment in the rural areas. Alternative income-generating programmes for parents combined with compulsory, attractive and meaningful primary education in the rural areas, are essential to prevent families from migrating and ending up in even worse exploitative situations, including their children.
Because a girl's childhood, educational and social development are more affected than a boy's due to her double burden of household and economic activities, she needs extra attention in awareness-raising, development and educational programmes. Parents need to be made aware of the negative effects when they burden their daughter with too much work. Especially employers in the garment industry in India should create creche facilities. This should be a demand of importers who buy their garments from exporters who do not have such a facility at present.
Het volledige rapport
Child and adult labour in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry in India; with case studies from Tirupur, Bangalore, Jaipur and Trichy
Auteur: Martine Kruijtbosch; uitg.: LIW, nov. 1996; geïll. met kleurenfoto's; Engelstalig
is te downloaden als PDF-document (22 Mb) door hier te klikken!
Child and adult labour in the export-oriented garment and gem polishing industry in India; with case studies from Tirupur, Bangalore, Jaipur and Trichy
Author: Martine Kruijtbosch; publ. by: LIW, Nov. 1996; illustr. with color photographs; English
can be downloaded as PDF document (22 Mb) by clicking here!
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