Impact of India's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme on child labour

This study examines the incidence of child labour under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which does not allow for the employment of a person below 18 years of age.

The salience of child well-being in India's development architecture is well known. India has several targeted and universal social protection programmes to protect and support people from their "cradle to grave". These include child-focused social protection programmes such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Midday Meal Scheme (MMS), and so on.

Given its overarching objective to alleviate poverty, the MGNREGS can have a significant impact on the well-being of children. MGNREGS is the most important rights-based social protection programme in India that has demonstrated varying degrees of success across the country. If harnessed optimally, MGNREGS, by improving the right of women and men to employment, can in turn enhance the rights of children. There have been many evaluations of the employment, infrastructural and social impacts of MGNREGS among others but there are hardly any systematic studies relating to the effect of the scheme on children.

This study examines the incidence of child labour in MGNREGS and the socioeconomic conditions facing households that send their children for work and the reasons thereof. Furthermore, it analyse the effects of the additional income generated through the MGNREGS on the healthcare and education of children.

The study is primarily based on a survey conducted at MGNREGS worksites in a total of four districts (two from each state) in the states of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in the north and Tamil Nadu in the south. In addition to the survey, interviews with 400 workers were also carried out to generate data for the study.