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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 7-9

Child labour in footwear industry: Possible occupational health hazards

Occupational Medicine Division, National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, India

Correspondence Address:
Rajnarayan R Tiwari
Senior Research Officer, Occupational Medicine Division, National Institute of Occupational Health, Meghani Nagar, Ahmedabad - 380016
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5278.16034

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The constitution of India, as a part of the fundamental rights, has laid down that the State shall direct its policy towards protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and shall not be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any hazardous employment. India has the largest number of urban and rural child workers in the world. The Government of India acknowledges at least 17.5 million working children.2 Footwear industry is also one of the major export oriented industry employing a large number of children. The Footwear Industry is a significant segment of the Leather Industry in India. India ranks second among the footwear producing countries next to China. The industry is labour intensive and is concentrated in the small and cottage industry sectors. While leather shoes and uppers are concentrated in large-scale units, the sandals and Chappals are produced in the household and cottage sector. The major production centers India are Chennai, Ranipet, Ambur in Tamil Nadu, Mumbai in Maharashtra, Kanpur and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Jalandhar in Punjab and Delhi. The processes in the footwear making include last making, pattern cutting, clicking, Sewing, Assembling and Finishing. Children between 10 and 15 years old are mainly employed in assembling shoes. Some 80 percent of the children work for contractors at home. Children work on soling (fixing upper portions of shoes to leather or rubber soles) with glue. Children in cramped poorly lit rooms suffer from continuous skin contact with industrial adhesives and breathing vapors from glues. The children working in the footwear industry are exposed to physical factors like poor illumination, noise and poor ventilation, and chemicals like leather dust, benzene that is used as a solvent in glues and p-tert butyl phenols, which is used in neoprene adhesives. Thus most children suffer from respiratory problems, lung diseases and skin infections through constant exposure to glue and fumes. They are also exposed to risk of nasal cancer, neurotoxicity and adverse physical factors. It is recommended to stop child labour and let the child be bread eater rather than bread earner.


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