There has been growing concern for child labour across the globe and several efforts are being made by the governments, donor agencies, UN agencies and civil society organisations to eliminate child labour. This concern has been translated into action in several parts of the world where certain successful models have evolved that helped in bringing down the incidence of child labour. In this context certain interesting questions come up regarding its impact on the labour practices. It is argued that the labour of children, who were earlier available in large numbers in the labour market, depresses the wages and worsens the labour conditions of adults. Withdrawing children from the labour market would possibly cause rise in the wages for adults. The International Labour organisation (ILO) has developed labour standards and the broader concept of decent work (also including employment creation, social security and social dialogue) and recognised child labour as one of the important impediments to achieve the same. Any successful efforts in the direction of eliminating child labour should therefore also significantly contribute to the achievement of decent work for adults.
The reported large scale violations of child rights in cotton farm sector have caught the attention of many around the world. The specificity of hybrid cottonseed production is that the majority of workers in this sector are children, particularly girls. No other industry in India has such a high proportion of child labour in its workforce.
The principal aim of the present study is to examine the relationship between child labour and decent work for adults. It is argued that the presence of child labour reduces the bargaining power of adult workers and suppresses their wages. Once the children are removed from the workforce, the demand for adult labour automatically increases which will in turn help them to improve their bargaining power for better wages and working conditions. An attempt is made in this study to empirically test this hypothesis in hybrid cottonseed sector in Andhra Pradesh.
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