Child labor in suburban areas of Calcutta, West Bengal

Indian Pediatr. 1991 Sep;28(9):1039-44.


Seven hundred and fifty nine children in different sectors were covered in this study, which was undertaken by observational techniques, questionnaires and physical examination. All children belonged to the age group of 6-14 years. Nearly 30% children had migrated from neighbouring districts and states. Almost 88% were Hindus and 12.2% were Muslims. Seventy one per cent children came from large families. In 40% families one child, and in 59.6% families more than one sibling had joined the labor force. About 83% fathers and 93.9% mothers were illiterate. A total of 55.8% did not attend schools; 45.3% had discontinued school due to poverty (69.9%), father's apathy (8.4%), children's own attitude (10.4%) and frequent absence and physical assaults by school teachers (5.0%). The main reason for taking up jobs was low per capita income (70.3%). Wages were exploitatively low: as little as Rs. 50/- per month in 20.8%, for work of an average 10-12 hours per day. Only 4% had systemic health check-ups. Different grades of malnutrition were observed in 55.7% male and 29.5% female working children. The ailments observed included anemia (60.4%), respiratory tract infection (31.8%), and gastrointestinal tract infection (33.6%). Nearly half (52.6%) children were addicted to bidi smoking, 3% to ganja and 39.3% to betel-nut. The evils of exploitation are increasing inspite of existing child laws.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Suburban Population