Relaxation of labour laws after COVID-19 lockdown could increase child labour, say NGOs

The alliance -- Working Group on Women in Value Chains (WiVC) -- highlighted how relaxations of varying degrees adopted by a few states can lead to dilution of labour law.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

NEW DELHI: Fearing that relaxations of labour laws following the lockdown may impact women workers and drive children to join the workforce, an alliance of NGOs have appealed to the government to review the legislations.

The alliance -- Working Group on Women in Value Chains (WiVC) -- highlighted how relaxations of varying degrees adopted by a few states to promote business operations and maintain steady output to drive economic growth can lead to dilution of labour law.

The organisations under WiVC include Save the Children, Sewa Bharat, CARE India, International Development Research Centre,  Society for Labour and Development, Oxfam India, Change Alliance and others.

The extension of working hours from nine to 10 or 12 hours a day, dilution of labour welfare measures such as occupational health and safety of workers, and suspension of inspection mechanisms in industries at some place can adversely impact women workers and affect children, the alliance said in a statement. "Dilution of monitoring mechanisms through tapered inspection may lead to increased incidences of exploitation and abuse of workers and see children join  the workforce," it said.

Migrant labour being a key driver of the urban economy, the lock-down has forced many to return to their villages due to the absence of employment and insecurity of income, resulting in increased vulnerability, exploitation and poverty, the statement said.

"Also, extended working hours will impact child-care as parents will be able to devote lesser time on education and wellbeing of their children. Reduction in welfare benefits for workers as well as their families, will negatively impact the wellbeing of women and children," it said.

The statement said that evidences show that all these factors will result in decrease in the participation rates of women in the labour market.

The WiVC has appealed to the government to restore the relevant provisions of labour laws to ensure the wellbeing of the workers in formal and informal sector, ensure commitment of state and businesses to adhere to internationally recognized labour standards and engage with suppliers to promote the safety and security of workers engaged in various tiers of the supply chain.

It has also appealed to the government to see to it that labour departments in states identify violations of relevant provisions of labour laws, including non-payment of wages and exploitative or unsafe working conditions and take action.

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