This was a study of the prevalence of working children and child labor in the production process of the export-oriented handmade carpet industry in India in 2009-2011. The study included wool- processing activities (supplying the yarn) as well as carpet production and finishing. This study adhered to international standards by considering all persons younger than 18 years of age to be children. The methodology included preliminary qualitative research, development of a national sampling frame, and a large-scale cross-sectional sample survey of factory-based and household- based production.
The survey estimated that 7,449 factories and 128,268 households were engaged in India’s carpet industry, employing a total workforce of 273,866 usual workers, of whom 13,131 (4.8 percent) were children. These estimates of the size of the industry and number and prevalence of working children were much smaller than earlier estimates. Earlier estimates of working children ranged from 32,647 to 356,000, with their prevalence in the industry workforce ranging from 7.1 percent to 58 percent.2 The earlier estimates labeled all working children as child labor.
More than half (53.7 percent) of the child carpet workers were girls. Almost all (94.2 percent) the children working in the carpet industry in India were working in households. Almost all (98.8 percent) the children working in households and two-thirds (64.5 percent) of the children working in carpet factories were living with their parents.
The study estimated that all (100 percent) children working in the carpet industry in India showed indications of being engaged in hazardous work (child labor). In addition, three-fourths (74.5 percent) of those children showed indications of working excessive hours. There were indications that a minority of the children and their families might be vulnerable to being in forced/bonded labor, as one-fourth of the households were indebted, and half of the indebted households reported having difficulties repaying their debts. Finally, there were indications that at least some children in the factory-based carpet industry may be in trafficking conditions.
India’s labor standards defined children as persons younger than 14 years, defined the carpet industry to be hazardous, set the minimum legal age to work in hazardous work or factories to be 14 years of age, and exclude family-based workplaces from labor law regulation. None of the children working in carpet factories in India were below 14 years of age. One-fourth (26.3 percent) of the children working in the household-based industry were below 14.