Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, as well as being a tourist attraction is a major shoe making centre, producing nearly 200 million pairs of shoes annually in an industry that employs a quarter of the city's population. India is the world's second-largest producer of footwear and leather garments. Almost 90 percent of India's footwear exports go to the European Union
Children as young as 8yrs miss school and toil in hazardous conditions to make shoes for the global market, according to research. Only half of the children making shoes or those living in the areas surveyed were enrolled in school.
Children in small informal workshops and households were found to be involved in the manufacturing process, from hand and machine stitching to applying adhesive and packing shoes, the report said. Research in Agra found that factories subcontracting of work to small production units or homes meant many workplaces escaped scrutiny.
"They have no access to schools in their neighbourhoods, which makes them available for work," said Venkat Reddy of MV Foundation, a non-profit organisation and member of the Stop Child Labour Coalition that commissioned the research. "We found the children followed no fixed work hours as most of them worked at home. They don't take breaks as they earn by each piece they make," Reddy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "The children we met worked in groups in small, poorly ventilated rooms all day, which poses a health risk. They never played."
About 2.5 million Indian workers toil for long hours with toxic chemicals for poverty wages in the leather industry, said the ICN report released earlier this year.