Childcare in India today 

Childcare in India today 

A brief history of child welfare policies around the world

Historically, childcare, as an idea has been central to the building of societies. The institution of family in itself has been central to the emergence of other institutions like religion, justice and the modern nation-state. Various cultures and religions have approached the idea of childcare differently, but regardless of their diversity, there has been a secular concern towards the welfare of children, as it was seen as their duty to carry the family forward into the next generation. 

Over the passing of time, modern nation-states emerged and childcare moved from being a concern limited to individual family’s, to a concern that was shared by society and the nation. In the United States, childcare began in the form of providing nurseries in poor settlement colonies, to take care of infants while their mothers were at work performing industrial labour.

The US government got involved with childcare after the onset of the Second World War, where, under the Lanham Act of 1943, $52 million was provided from 1943-46 to subsidize, all-around day care for children, for up to 6 days a week. This support allowed working women in the United States to take part in the war effort but was terminated soon after the end of the war, when women were, once again, expected to go back home and take after their children full time. 

Post the war, up until the 1970s there was no real progress made in terms of state-mandated support towards child care, and in 1975 President Nixon vetoed a bill that would provide care for all US children. In 1988, in light of growing concerns about educational inequalities and its impact on the economy at large the Act for Better Childcare Services was passed. Due to some technical difficulties in the bill, this was sent to be passed through both houses again, and representatives at the time instead chose to compromise and devolve a set amount to states to fund childcare for the economically marginalised. Finally, in the 1990s bills were passed which guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave to parents and a degree of funding support for childcare, but only for those who were extremely marginalised economically.


India ranks 12th among 52 lower middle-income nations having highest infant mortality rates
Photo by Qazi Danish Nazir 

Gaps in Child Care

The history of state-mandated child care has been similar in most countries, with most large countries dragging their feet on implementing meaningful childcare reform. In light of this gap inadequate policy planning and implementation, as well as the ethical and moral imperative to protect and care for the young, several actors in civil society, in the form of Non-Governmental Organisations, religious organizations, and various charitable trusts chose to fill this gap. 

Over the passing of time, their role has expanded and they continue to support children across the world while also advocating better state intervention through rights-based advocacy in various different countries.

99 million children in total have dropped out of school (Census 2011)
Photo by Qazi Danish Nazir

Child Care in India today 
India has seen several extremely progressive pieces of legislation being passed to support childcare and the wellbeing of India's children. Schemes like the Midday Meal Scheme and legislation such as the Right to Education have looked to guarantee schooling as well as ensure that children are able to get nutritious food.

Institutions such as the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas and the Kendriya Vidyalayas have looked to provide quality education at the lowest possible cost. Legislation guaranteeing maternity leave has looked to reduce barriers that may prevent women from entering the workforce.

Shocking statistics show the status of childcare in India 

  1. India ranks 12th among 52 lower middle-income nations having highest infant mortality rates.
  2. 1 in 4 children of school-going age is out of school in our country – 99 million children in total have dropped out of school (Census 2011).
  3. Out of every 100 children, only 32 children finish their school education age-appropriately (District Information System for Education (DISE) 2014-15).
  4. There are 10.13 million child labourers between 5-14 years in India (Census 2011).
  5. India has 33 million working children between the ages of 5-18 years. In parts of the country, more than half the child population is engaged in labour (Census 2011).
  6. 19.8 million children below age 6 in India are undernourished (ICDS 2015). Only 9.6% of children between 6-23 months in the country receive an adequate diet (NFHS 4, 2015-16).
  7. 42% of married women in India were married as children (District Information System for Education (DISE).
  8. 1 in every 3 child brides in the world is a girl in India (UNICEF).
13 million child labourers between 5-14 years in India (Census 2011)
Photo by Qazi Danish Nazir 

Organizations that Work on Childcare in India
In light of these alarming facts, there are several organisations that work on childcare in India. Listed below are some of these organisations, that you may consider supporting for their work in this sector. 

1. Child Rights and You (CRY) 
CRY is an organisation that was started in 1979 by Rippan Kapur and his 6 friends at his mother's dining table with Rs 50. They felt that something needed to be done to improve the situation of the underprivileged Indian child. Uncharacteristically, given their backgrounds and motivations, they chose not to start a grassroots-level implementing organisation working directly with and for underprivileged children. They opted instead to make CRY a link between the millions of Indians who could provide resources and thousands of dedicated people and organisations at the grassroots level who are struggling to function for lack of them. Today CRY and its partners, support thousands of children across India, and CRY’s advocacy has helped move progressive legislation, in support of substantive childcare. 

2. Save The Children
The Save the Children Fund, commonly known as Save the Children, is an international non-governmental organisation that promotes children's rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries. It was established in the United Kingdom in 1919 in order to improve the lives of children through better education, health care, and economic opportunities, as well as providing emergency aid in natural disasters, war, and other conflicts.

In India, as of December 2017, Save the Children works in 19 states and registered as 'Bal Raksha Bharat', has changed the lives of more than 10 million (1 crore) children till date. In the year 2017, alone, Save the Children reached 22.7 lakh children.

3. Oxfam India 
Oxfam India works primarily through grassroots organisations to bring deep-rooted sustainable changes in people’s lives. We do this through long-term development programming and link it to positive policy changes at various levels. We work for the socially excluded and most marginalised communities by mobilising them to campaign for greater economic and social reforms.


India ranks 12th among 52 lower middle-income nations having highest infant mortality rates  1 in 4 children of school-going age is out of school in our country – 99 million children in total have dropped out of school (Census 2011) Out of every 100 children, only 32 children finish their school education age-appropriately (District Information System for Education (DISE) 2014-15
Photo by Vivek M

In 2018, Oxfam India achieved the following:

•    13051 children (46% girls) from our intervention areas are now receiving quality education.
•    136 schools and 117 Anganwadi centres are made functional.
•    440 School Management Committees (SMCs) made functional in Primary and Upper Primary Schools.

While Oxfam works on many different verticals, it gives great emphasis towards its work on Girl Child Education. Its campaign to better India’s abysmal record in this department has involved using donations to enrol girls back in school, ensure implementation of the Right to Education, engage in rights-based advocacy to demand better government action on girl child education, and creating awareness across society about the importance of the same.

 You can support this campaign by donating for the cause of girl child education in India.

General FAQs

Do children work in India?

According to Census 2011, there are 10.1 million working children in India in the age group of five to 14 years. There are 8.1 million children working in rural areas and 2 million in urban areas. Children are involved in manual work, domestic work, agricultural work such as cotton growing. They are also working in factories, including carpet making, brick kilns, tea plantations, and glassmaking.


Why do children work in India?

The main reason for child labour in India is poverty. Lack of education among parents leads to lack of employment and therefore, little or no means of income; this results in a child being forced to contribute financially to the family. Families’ indebtedness and natural disasters also force children into child labour. Employers often employ children because it is cheaper and they are not aware of their rights and government regulations.

What is the percentage of child labour in India?

3.9% of the total child population in India is working i.e. involved in child labour. There are 259.6 million children in India in the age group of 5-14 years among whom, 10.1 million are working. As per Census 2011, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh together constitute nearly 55% of the total working children in India. Their states have the highest incidences of child labour. *


Which country has the most child labour?

West and Central Africa has the highest percentage of child labourers globally; 31 per cent of children between 5-17 years are engaged in child labour.*


What is welfare of a child?

The welfare of a child is ensuring that children have safe spaces and a stable environment to grow up in. Child welfare is a system of public and private agencies which ensure children have the adequate care they need and families have support in taking care of their children. Child welfare organisations provide support services to children to prevent child abuse and neglect, support families in caring for their children, and ensure children have a safe home in case of abuse at their original home.

What are the child protection policies?

The Constitution of India recognizes children as equal right holders and grants the highest priority for their protection and well-being. Article 15(3) in The Constitution of India states that the state must make special provision for children. Article 39 in The Constitution of India states that the state shall direct its policy towards securing (among other things) that children are not abused and are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. The article also states that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment. *India is also a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).


What are child welfare programmes?

There are several child welfare programmes in India. Some of the child welfare programmes in India are:

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is aimed at improving the health, nutrition and learning opportunities of infants, children aged 0 – 6 years and their mothers.

Creche Scheme for the children of working mothers ensures overall development of children, protection, immunisations and generates awareness on health and education among parents.

Mid-day meal scheme aims at improving the nutrition of children from classes I to VIII in Government, Local Body and Government aided schools, and EGS and AIE centres.

Integrated programme for Street Children provided shelter, nutrition, healthcare, sanitation, safe drinking water, education and recreational facilities, and protection against abuse and exploitation to neglected street children.





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