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A Study of Child Labour Among School Children and Related Factors in Pondicherry

Indian Journal of Community Medicine Vol. 30, No. 1, January-March, 2005
A Study of Child Labour Among School Children and Related Factors in Pondicherry
T. Nivethida, G. Roy
Research question : What is the prevalence of child labour among school children in urban area of Pondicherry? What are the
factors related to its prevalence. Objectives : 1. To assess the percentage of child labourers among school children in Pondicherry
and study the factors related to it. 2. To compare their academic performance in school with that of other children. Study Design
: Cross-sectional. Setting : Four schools within urban area of Pondicherry. Participants : Students of Government schools
studying in classes from 5th to 9th during the academic year 2001-02. Sample Size : 1305. Study variables: Age, Sex, class
of study, type of work, Hours of work per day, weekly income, reason for working, attendance and total marks obtained in the
previous academic year. Statistical analysis : Chi-square test, proportions. Result and Conclusion : One hundred and fifty
students per 1000 students were engaged in work outside school hours. Girls start working earlier than boys. They also work for
longer hours than boys. A quarter of the students especially boys work for more than 10 hours per day. Most girls work as
domestic servants at homes. Percentage of attendance in not affected much upto class 8, but a drastic fall is noticed among
students of class 9. The ratio of below average students among those working is only slightly higher than among the non-
working students.
Deptt. of Preventive & Social Medicine J I P M E R,
In a country like India, where 32% of the population is below
the poverty line child labour is deemed a necessity for
augmenting the family income. Therefore poverty is a major
determinant of such a practice. According to a 1996 report
(ILO), the number if child labourers in India can be anywhere
between 14 to 100 million1. In an attempt to eradicate child
labour the government has advocated compulsory education
for all children over the country. The objective of this policy
was to eradicate child labour as far as possible. Such policies
however have little impact because factors other than poverty
compel children to work.
While all attention is paid to those children who are involved
in manufacturing jobs, the fact that an equal or even larger
number of them are engaged in agricultural and household
related jobs remains largely ignored. Child domestic workers
form the largest and most ignored group of child workers
according to UNICEF’s Innocenti digest2. Such jobs may not
carry remuneration in cash and other benefits enjoyed by the
organized sector. It therefore becomes difficult to cite an
accurate figure for the magnitude of children engaged in work,
as employers fail to report the truth during surveys for fear of
prosecution. It can be safely presumed that a high proportion
of children are engaged in paid work.
Community based studies among children are required to
determine the prevalence of child labour and factors associated
with it since the parents or the employee may not be
forthcoming in their responses. The present study was therefore
carried out to assess the percentage of child labourers among
school children in Pondicherry, compare their performance in
school with that of other children and gain knowledge about
their contribution to the family’s economic status.
Material and Methods
For the purpose of the study, four schools in Pondicherry were
selected so as to include a fairly large number of children
with comparable distribution of boys and girls in both regular
and shift schools. Only those students studying in classes
5th to 9th were chosen for the study because children below
class 5 would not be able to fill the questionnaire that was
provided, prevalence of child labour was insignificant among
children belonging to classes below 5, and children above
class 9 were busy with their academic work and the teachers
would be uncooperative.
After obtaining necessary permission to visit the schools from
the Director of Education, Pondicherry, the Principal of the
schools were met and permission sought for conducting the
study. Visits were made to each of the class to collect the
necessary data. Those children who worked were asked to fill
a pre-tested semi-structured questionnaire. The questionnaire
contained the identification details of the children, details about
their jobs, their employers and their pay, and about their
families and socio-econmic status.
The children filled the questionnaires themselves, with some
guidance from the investigator in making them understand a
few questions. The average marks obtained by the individuals
during the previous academic year and attendance were
obtained from school records. The data was analyzed for
descriptive details and necessary statistical tests applied
where required.
The four schools selected for the study registered a total of
1,305 children between classes 5 and 9, out of which 498
were boys and 807 were girls. There were a total of 196
students who said they worked outside school hours, with a
prevalence of 150/1000 school children, of which 117 were
boys (89.6/1000 school children) and 79 girls (60.5/1000
school children). While in most cases the age of the child
matched the class in which they studied (class studying + 5
= age in years) in some children this did not hold true because
of late enrolment or dropout followed by re-enrolment.
Table I shows the break up of working boys and girls in various
age groups. Girls start working at a younger age than boys by
Child Labour in School Children
Indian Journal of Community Medicine Vol. 30, No. 1, January-March, 2005
an average of 1 to 2 years. By the age of 15, however, a
larger proportion of boys than girls are working. It was observed
that roughly half of the boys go for work only on holidays
(part-time basis). In contract 60% of girls work on all days
irrespective of the school timings.
It was also found that nearly half of the children (with almost
equal distribution of boys and girls) works for less than 5
hours a day. A quarter of them (almost all boys) works for
more than 10 hours a day. This is bound to have an adverse
effect on the health and academic performance of these
Children are employed in homes, shops, workshops or
companies. A large proportion of them work in shops (48%)
and in homes (35%). More than 90% of those working in houses
are girls but there is no girl working in workshops. Boys
constitute only 10% those working in homes. On the other
hand, 90% of those working in shops are boys. Almost an
equal number of boys and girls are employed in small
manufacturing companies.
The reason for working was also analyzed. One hundred and
sixty seven (85.2%) of the children said they worked due to
poverty in the family. Other reasons given were to help parents
in their work or to learn the job. However, 167 (85%) of the
children responded that they worked without being forced to
do so. Among the 15% children who were compelled to work,
18 (9.7%) were compelled to work by their mothers. Arriving
at the conclusion that mothers force children to work could
be misleading. It is a general observation among people of
the lower socio-economic strata that fathers show little interest
how the household expenses are met. The mothers are given
some amount of money to run the house on daily basis and it
falls on them to make the money last.
Now there arises a question as to why should the children be
sent to school rather than to full time jobs. The answer to this
question is the midday meal programme and the Rajiv Gandhi
break-fast scheme in Pondicherry. This is also made evident
in the study in the form of a drastic fall in the attendance
among students of class 9 who are not eligible under these
A majority (71.9%) of children said their employers were kind
to them, while 5% of them were beaten and 13% of the children
said their employers used abusive language on them. These
responses are likely to be inaccurate because children were
not convinced about the confidentiality of their responses.
About half of the children feel that their study/play is affected
by work while the other half deny it to be so. What was
surprising was that the proportion of those who felt that working
did not interfere with studies or play increased with higher
While the average income of the working children was Rs.
62.00 per week (range 45-74), 118 (60%) of the children earned
below this average amount. The average money donated to
the family was Rs. 59.00 (range: 71-42). In the case of 35
children (17.8%) is was not possible to calculate their weekly
earnings as these children were not paid in cash. They are
either given food and old cloths or not given a salary at all
since they only work to assist their parents. For instance
several children worked along side their parents (mainly their
fathers) at their jobs. It was their parents who got paid extra
or left work early for the increase in work output. While it is
difficult to exactly quantify the amount of contribution these
children make, it is nonetheless clear that by way of free
meals and cloths they do take some burden off the family
expenses. Except in the 8th standard, the ratio of below
average student among the working students is only slightly
higher than among non-working students. This finding
strengthens the working students assertion that working does
not hamper their studies or play. There was not much difference
between the attendance percentage of working and non
working students upto class 8. But a drastic fall is noticed in
the percentage of attendance among working students of class
9. This might imply that the midday meal and break fast
schemes are quite effective in making up the attendance.
It should be borne in mind that the present study was
conducted among school children. The reported figures would
certainly be higher if the study also included children who did
not attend school which includes almost half of other children
and at east two thirds of girls.
Abolishing child labour has to be a continuous process, which
has to make sure that the problem is removed from its roots.
Eradication of child labour is certainly a necessary exercise;
however ignoring facts that lead to children being used as
cheap labour and factors that help in continuation of the
practice might undo all the efforts of the exercise. Not much
can be done to improve the situation of child workers unless
employers are involved.
1. ILO, 1996; World Labour Report; Geneva
2. 5th UNICEF Innocenti Digest. Innocenti Research Centre;
3. Child Labour in India by Taha Husein
Table I : Age wise Distribution of Working Children (Figures in
parenthesis are percentage)
Age Group Boys Girls
9-10 - 9 (11.4)
11.12 11 (9.4) 33 (41.8)
13-14 59 (50.4) 19 (24.1)
15-16 41 (35.0) 15 (18.9)
17+ 6 (5.1) 3 (1.3)
Total 117 79
Child Labour in School Children
... Amongst these 72.13% were boys and 27.86% were girls. The prevalence in different studies conducted in Nigeria, Nagpur and in Pondicherry was 64.5% [9] , 21.3% [10] and 15% [11] respectively. In our study prevalence is high as compared to Indian studies because most of population in the study area was migrated living in the slums and also we included both working children going to school as well as not enrolled in school. ...
... 82% of children were from socio economic class 4 and 5. Same was found in Nagpur and Pondicherry study [10] [11] . Also children from poor families, problem families, with alcoholic father had to work. ...
... Devi K in their study found that working children spent less time in study [12] . Nivethida et al in her study found that half of children felt that their work affected their studies [11] .In the Nagpur study majority 78.3% had school drop-outs [10] . ...
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Objectives-The present study was carried out to study the prevalence and causes of child labor in an urban slum and to find the factors associated to child labor. Methodology-The present cross-sectional study was carried out in an urban field practice area of Community Medicine Department of Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences, Karad Maharashtra. All the children in the age group of 5-14 years were contacted with a house-to-house survey. Data was collected by filling a pre-tested semi-structured questionnaire in the presence of their parents. The questionnaire contained the details of working children, details of their jobs, their employers and their pay, the effect of work on schooling/studies, about their families and socioeconomic status. Their parents were also interviewed and necessary information was obtained from them. The diet history was obtained from them as well as their parent. Statistical Analysis-Chi square test, proportions, percentages, means and standard deviations. Results-The prevalence of child labor in the study area was 36.30%, amongst these 72.13% were boys and 27.86% were girls. 82% of these were from socioeconomic class 4 and 68.8% of fathers and 95% of mothers of these children were illiterate. 59% had an alcoholic father. 78.7% of child labourers were engaged in full time labour and were not attending school at all. 76.92% said that work interfered with studies. The main reason to go to work was poverty in 86.9% and family debt in 34.4%. Most of the girls 76.47% work in homes and tamashas and 47.7% boys work in catering. 65.6% were compelled to work, 39.34% were compelled by their mothers. Neither employment security nor leaves were given to any child. All children were found to be malnourished.
... Similar observation found by Nitin N Ambedkar et al [7] (1998) who found that majority (74.4%) of child labourers stated inadequate family income as a cause of child labour followed by compulsion by parents (20.6%), death of father (4%), father's addiction (0.9%), child's desire (12.6%), participation in family work (11.2%), separated parents (0.9%), others (14.4%). [7] T Nivethida, G Roy [8] (2005) in Pondichery found 85.2% of the child labourers said that they worked due to poverty in the family. Tabassum F, Baig LA [9] (2002) in Bhutta village, Pakistan observed that besides majority (89%) gave the reason to support the family as a reason of child labour other reasons given by child labourers were parent's pressure (5%), fond of work (4%), learning the skill (1%) and self-support (1%). ...
... A study by Sarmila Malik et al[4] (2002) in Kolkata revealed that 17.3% of the child workers were not paid any wages, which is found to be slightly higher than the present study. T Nivethida, G Roy[8] (2005) in Pondichery found that 17.8% children were not paid in cash because they were given incentives like food, old clothes etc.In the present study mean wage amount per month of child labourers was ` 689.15  299.73. Sarmila Malik et al[4] (2002) in Kolkata observed that average remuneration of child labourers was found to be ` 164.30 per month which was quite lower than the present study. ...
... Nitin N Ambedkar, Shirin N Wahab, Nayantara D Vasudeo[7] (1998) found that mean daily wages of child labourers were ` 8.6. T Nivethida, G Roy[8] (2005) in Pondichery found that the average income of working children was ` 62 per week and 60% of the child labourers earned below this average amount.The present study revealed that 90.8% spend their wages to support family. Sarmila Malik et al[4] (2002) revealed that majority of working children (77.4%) spent almost whole of their income to support their family. ...
... The percentage of documented employed children was 5.5% ( = 33,298), of whom 38.4% were not enrolled in schools [15]. The study indicated that 24.0% of these youth worked in the commercial sector including restaurants, 20.0% in mining, quarries, and manufacturing industries, 30.4% in agriculture, and 18.0% in construction. The percentage of children who worked for more than 6 hours a day was 73.2% [15]. ...
... In comparison with data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) in 1996 which indicated that less than 8% of 10th graders, 20% of 11th graders, and 46% of 12th graders worked more than 19 hours per week during the school year [13]. Other studies also report similar findings [26][27][28][29] including an Indian study reporting that half of working children are employed for less than five hours daily [30]. Discrepancies between these estimates are obvious and may reflect different reference periods and interview protocols, self-versus proxy response, survey design (personal visit versus telephone survey administration, etc.), respondent bias, errors in recall, and other measurement and methodological issues. ...
... Indonesian domestic service employs an estimated 5 million children each year [44]. In India, where most working girls are employed as domestics, children are also employed either in shops, workshops, or companies [30]. ...
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Background. Labor related injuries among Palestinian schoolchildren are a significant undocumented public health concern. This study aimed at documenting the prevalence and nature of work related injuries among schoolchildren as well as identifying sociodemographic factors that predict these injuries. Methods. A cross-sectional survey included 15,963 children of whom 6458 (40.8%) completed an optional package related to labor. Students aged 12–18 years self-completed the international WHO collaborative HBSC valid questionnaires between April and May of 2006. Results. Approximately 73.8% of the students who filled the optional package reported working during the last 12 months, of whom 79.1% sustained a work related injury. Work injuries were significantly higher among boys, younger children, and children enrolled in UNRWA schools and living in Gaza Strip (P < 0.05). Children working ≥3 hours/day were more likely to experience injuries, 1.73 (95% CI, 1.53–1.95), than those working ≤3/day. About half of the children worked in retail trade (51.5%), agriculture (20.0%), and cleaning (11.4%). Injury type was related to the type of work performed. Conclusions. The high prevalence of injuries among working Palestinian schoolchildren confirms its severity as a public health problem. To reduce occupational injuries, policymakers and professionals should develop intervention programs that target the public and health providers.
... In Karnataka state census of child labour in the year 1971, shows about 8 lakh children were victims of child labour and during the year 2001 there is a slow but steady increase in rates of child labourers. 15 According to the Registrar General Govt. of India: between 14 -18 million children aged 5 to 14 years work for wages many social agencies claim that 44 million is a realistic estimate of the prevalence of child labour accomplished by product of poverty, industrialization, in adequate Enforcement of labour laws and other social factors. 15 It is obvious that child labour can have significant adverse effect on the health and well being of children during a critical phase in their life. ...
... 15 According to the Registrar General Govt. of India: between 14 -18 million children aged 5 to 14 years work for wages many social agencies claim that 44 million is a realistic estimate of the prevalence of child labour accomplished by product of poverty, industrialization, in adequate Enforcement of labour laws and other social factors. 15 It is obvious that child labour can have significant adverse effect on the health and well being of children during a critical phase in their life. 9 ...
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Child labour indicates employment of child for economic wage earning work and the child is subjected to various hazards related to his mental, physical and social health. The child loses his " childhood " abruptly and is prematurely pushed to live an adult life and shoulder responsibilities. A summary by the ILO showed that, the world's 211 million working children aged from 5 to 14 were situated in the regions of the world, which is serious issue internationally. Objective: To assess the knowledge and attitude on child labour among parents and to rule out the physical health problems of working children. Methods: In order to achieve the objectives of the study, a non experimental research design with a descriptive approach was adopted. 80 parents of working children were interviewed using non probability purposive sampling technique. Result: The result reveled that; majority (72.5%) of parents had moderately adequate knowledge on child labour. The mean score was 56.37 ± 11.61, parental attitude on child labour explains that, Majority (95%) of parents had positive attitude on child labour. The mean score was 70.26 ± 5.94 and identification of common health problems among working children shows that, Majority (92.5%) of children had moderate health problems which needs some medical intervention and (2.5%) of them had sever health problems which need urgent medical intervention. The mean score was 50.75 ± 5.36. Findings of the study showed that there is a positive correlation between parental knowledge and attitude on child labour (r= 0.33, P<0.01). There is a low positive correlation between common health problems and parental knowledge (r=0.08) and also there is a low positive correlation between attitude and health problems (r=0.1). There was a significant association between the parental knowledge and Father's Education and there was a significant association between the parental attitude and age, monthly income of parents and other demographic variables like age, area of residence, habits, monthly income, and reason for child labour are not associated. There was no significant association between common health problems and demographic variables of working child.
Child labor is broadly defined as any form of economic activity for at least 1 hour per week and/or domestic chores for at least 7 hours per week and/or school labor for at least 5 hours per week.(1) According to estimates, in developing countries alone there are 250 million children in the age group of 5-17 years who are toiling in economic activity - i.e., one out of every six children in the world today. In absolute terms, it is Asia (excluding Japan) that has the most child workers (approximately 61% of the world's total).(2) A study done in Pondicherry determined that 15% of children in the urban school in Pondicherry were engaged in some form of economic work.(3) The policy appears to have little impact on the situation, as poverty is deep rooted and compels children to work.(4) Hence the complex issue of child labor and its ramification is worth investigating. It was strongly felt that children who work and attend school could have some disadvantage compared to school children who are not engaged in work. It was therefore decided to carry out the present study on working children who attend school, as it was felt that they may have special problems of having to cope with the burden of studies and work.
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