Working Paper
Out of School and (Probably) in Work

Child Labour and Capability Deprivation in India

This paper explores the hypothesis that the phenomenon of child labour is explicable in terms of poverty that compels a household to keep its children out of school and put them to work in the cause of the household’s survival. In exploring the link between child labour and poverty in the Indian context, the paper advances the view that the nature of the connection is more readily apprehended if both the variables under study are defined more expansively and inclusively than is customarily the case. Specifically, the suggestion is that it may be realistic to include those children who are conventionally categorized as ‘non-workers not attending school’ within the count of child labourers. It is also suggested that poverty is meaningfully measured in terms of a multi-dimensional approach to the problem, wherein the aim is to assess generalized capability failure—arising from want of access to elementary infrastructural facilities and essential amenities—with respect to a number of basic human functionings. The core of the paper’s argument is presented by means of a simple analytical model of child labour and deprivation, and the issues emerging from it are studied in the Indian context with the support of both primary and secondary data.