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U.N. focus on India ahead of World Day Against Child Labour

Children running around railway tracks in scorching Delhi heat, chasing trains and collecting plastic bottles from bogies to sell as scrap is a common sight at the city's railway stations.

Often seen picking rags, sleeping on railway platforms or on the roadside, the brazen child laborers are the darkest part of the Indian capital’s underbelly.

Cities in India have a much higher number of child laborers’- many less than nine years of age – a U.N. children’s agency official said on Monday (June 10).

Migration is a major driver of child labor practices as migrant parents usually come in search of livelihood to the city. And with no proper documents of age, children can be exploited by employers.

Despite a stringent legal framework against child labor, children are employed across numerous industries.

Dhuwarakha Sriram, Child protection and Adolescent Specialist, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said India needs to think of long-term solutions and focus on prevention instead of short term rescue and rehabilitation to fight child labour in its cities.

The latest Indian census data shows there are nearly 4.4 million child workers in the 5 to 14 age group in India.

The State of Child Workers in India report by UNICEF, based on the latest Indian census data, says the proportion of child workers in the 5-9 year age group jumped to 24.8 percent in 2011 from 14.6 percent in 2001.

The U.N. made the comments ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on Wednesday (June 12) and coincides with the United Nations’ International Labour Conference, which started on Monday.

The conference runs from June 10 to June 21 and will involve 5,000 delegates and 40 heads of state including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May.

(Production: Bhushan Kumar, Sunil Kataria)

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