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Child Labor in India and Indian Companies: Is There a Case for Extended Responsibility?

CASE STUDY, HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
ET Cases, 13 pages
AUTHOR(S) : Syed Abdul Samad and Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Case Preview

Child Labor in India and Indian Companies: Is There a Case for Extended Responsibility?

 

Mitali Roy (Mitali) and Manika Arora (Manika) did their MBA (with a specialization in HRM) from a prestigious management school in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. After the completion of their course, both took up jobs as HR Managers with different companies. Manika joined a software firm in Hyderabad and Mitali joined a reputed branded apparel firm in Bangalore, as HR Manager.

After 2 years, while on a business trip to Hyderabad Mitali met Manika and over a cup of coffee both of them were catching up as well as sharing their experiences at their current jobs. As they were talking, a boy of around 13 years of age came to their table, cleaned it and served their order. Manika was quick to notice the change in Mitali, as she seemed disturbed and asked the reason.

Mitali: Seeing this young boy serving here, brought back to my mind the plight of the young children I happen to see during my visits to the factories of our suppliers. I do not understand why people do not comply with the laws. Do you recollect the heated debates that we had during our HR specialization course, “Industrial Jurisprudence and Labor Law Applications”?

Manika: Yes, I do recollect those heated and animated discussions. But, young children working in cafes, restaurants, small shops, etc., is a common sight in India. Moreover, are they not earning a living for themselves and their families? Why is it bothering you so much?

Mitali: It is worrisome that despite so many laws prohibiting the use of child labor and provisions to provide education and development, child labor is rampant in the country/across industries. This deprives them of their basic rights like education, freedom, play and thereby their right to a healthy and prosperous future. Who will stop this? When will it end? Will it end, at all?

Manika: Is child labor prevalent in the industry you work?
...................

Teaching Note Preview

Child Labor in India and Indian Companies: Is There a Case for Extended Responsibility?

 

Synopsis

This case study enables a discussion on the extended responsibilities of HR departments in the case of child labor. With Kailash Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace Prize (for 2014) for his campaign against child labor, the simmering problem seems to have assumed a global dimension. The Government of India estimated, according to 2011 census, that there were around 4.5 million children working in the country, down from 13 million in 2001. But the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and other NGOs assert that there were around 60 million – 115 million working children in the country in 2011. These figures include children working at their own homes (unaccounted child labor as they do not come under the purview of law) and in hazardous industries like mining, glass blowing, carpet weaving, artificial pollination (agriculture), etc. While many government and non-governmental organizations were working towards the eradication of this social malice, corruption among the enforcement authorities, illiteracy of the parents, poverty, adult unemployment, and many other factors kept the practice of child labor prevalent in the country. Can Indian companies and their HR departments play a proactive role to abate the prevalence and occurrence of child labor through their intent and involvement?

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding (PCU)/Before the Classroom Discussion

The participants were asked to read the following chapters to help them connect the concepts.

  • •Gary Dessler and Biju Varkkey, “Chapter 2: Employment Law in India and the United States”, Human Resource Management, 12th Edition (Indian Adaptation), Pearson Education, Inc., 2011 – To understand the fundamental rights, rights against exploitation and constitutional provisions in India under the labor/factory laws and acts and their applicability in the Indian manufacturing firms and how child labor are exploited with the non-compliance of laws
  • •Gary Dressler and Biju Varkkey, “Chapter 14: Ethics, Justice and Fair Treatment in HR Management”, Human Resource Management, 12th Edition (Indian Adaptation), Pearson Education, Inc., 2011 – To understand the fundamental difference between being legally correct and being ethical; and understand the need for the companies to comply with both (law and ethics) in the case of employing child labor
  • •Students were also asked to observe the instances of businesses employing child labor and the prevalent working conditions/exploitation of children at these business units

 

Positioning/Case Setting

This case study can be used for either of the following modules/topics in the Human Resource Management Course:

  • • Labor Laws in India – To understand the Labor Laws (Factories Act, 1948, etc.) in India and how companies exploit workers by non-compliance of laws
  • • Child Labor and Constitutional Provisions in India – To understand the provisions of the law related to child labor (prohibiting child labor and provision of programs for their education and development)
  • • Ethics and Role of HR Departments in Companies – To understand the need for companies to behave ethically and prohibit using child labor anywhere in their supply chain and the extended role of HR departments in achieving the same

 

Assignment Questions

  • I. What are the reasons for prevalence of child labor despite several laws, including provisions in the Indian constitution?
  • II. Why do you think, child labor is prevalent in few industries as opposed to other industries? What can be done to eradicate instances of child labor even in these industries?
  • III. Do you think Indian companies have extended responsibilities to prevent and prohibit instances of child labor not just through their direct operations but also in all their indirect operations – for instance, in their vendors, suppliers, customers, employees, etc.?
  • IV. ....................

 

Suggested Orchestration

The classroom discussion was facilitated under three broad sections as explained in Exhibit (TN)-I. The classroom discussion and analysis for this case study could be summarized through the Board Plan [Exhibit (TN)-II]..............

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Abstract


This case study can be used to reflect the extended responsibilities of HR departments in the case of child labor. Especially in a country like India, where nearly 4.5 million children (according to 2011 census) are reportedly employed, what would this mean for the demographic dividend? Also with Kailash Satyarthi winning the Nobel Peace Prize (for 2014) for his campaigns against child labor, the simmering problem seems to have assumed a global dimension. Can Indian companies and their HR departments play a proactive role to abate the prevalence and occurrence of child labor through their intent and involvement? Two young HR recruits (Mitali Roy and Manika Arora) grapple with their ethical dilemmas.



Pedagogical Objectives

  • To discuss and debate on the extended responsibilities of HR departments in the case of child labor
  • To examine the ethical connotations for specific child labor related organizational instances
  • To understand the extent of instances and intensity of the prevalence of child labor in India and discuss on the measures taken thus far and further measures to be taken

Positioning/Case Setting

This case study can be used for either of the following modules/topics in the Human Resource Management Course:

  • Labor Laws in India – To understand the Labor Laws (Factories Act, 1948, etc.) in India and how companies exploit workers by non-compliance of laws
  • Child Labor and Constitutional Provisions in India - To understand the provisions of the law related to child labor (prohibiting child labor and provision of programs for their education and development)
  • Ethics and Role of HR Departments in Companies - To understand the need for companies to behave ethically and prohibit using child labor anywhere in their supply chain and the extended role of HR departments in achieving the same



This Case Pack Includes:
- Abstract
- Case Study
- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)
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