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BW Businessworld

‘Child Labour Affects Economic Growth’

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Menacherry Paul Joseph, head of ILO's anti-child labour programme in Cambodia, talks to Nandini Lakshman on India, child labour and growth.

On child labour and a country's growth...
Economic growth cannot be sustained with financial capital alone. It requires human capital, and ending child labour ensures that. All the rich nations of the world are those that emphasised child education.

India's dropout rate is alarming: of the 136 million enrolled in primary schools, only 56.7 million make it beyond 6th grade, and only 15.9 million reach up to 11-12 grades. 

What are the causes of child labour, poverty?
Poverty should drive adults to work, not children. A child's place is in school. In fact, when children stop working, family income increases. When children go to school, the labour market ceases to be a supply-surplus one and becomes a demand-surplus one where adult workers can get work and be paid higher wages. A lot of children work for reasons such as lack of schools, or access to them, etc.

So, what shall we do?
My experience in Cambodia shows income-generation efforts for families after we pull out kids from the workplace help. A ban on child labour can only stick if the political and social climate favours children's education and is against child labour. India's decision makers need to know that educating poor children is no longer a condescending social service, but an economic imperative to fuel economic growth.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 02-05-2011)