Child Artists work over 12 Hours a day in India’s Entertainment Industry

Extremely long and erratic working hours with hardly any rest, lack of concern about education and parental disregard for regular schooling often in pursuit of quick money and fame are some of the salient elements that harm the children working in the entertainment sector, a recent study conducted by leading child rights NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY) reveals.

The study ‘Child Artists in India, An Exploratory Study in Mumbai’ focuses on qualitative data and estimates made on child artists in Mumbai, as collated from secondary data.

Child Artists in India

While there are no precise statistics available on the estimate of child artists in the country, a sample of seven casting agencies that contained a total of 41,392 profiles of artists online (across India), suggested that 24.9 per cent were classified as child actors (i.e., under the age of 15). There were nearly 3,752 profiles of female child actors listed on these casting agency portals, and 4,642 profiles of male child actors.  Taking the two largest casting agency portals, the study found that the share of child artists / actors in the total number of actors listed is approximately 12.2 per cent on average. The portal search also suggests that 8.7 per cent of all male actors are child actors, and 15.7 per cent of all female actors are under the age of 18. From the analysis of the ratios of child artists to all artists listed on casting agency websites, the total number of child artists is estimated to lie in the interval of 6,059 (MESC, 2014) and 12,334 (Census, 2011).

To estimate the number of child artists, the study looked at a baseline understanding of the ratio of child artists to all artists in India. Secondary data was compiled from a diverse set of sources, including the Census 2011 data on industrial classification of main and marginal workers, the Sixth Economic Census of India, and information from the Media and Entertainment Skills Council (MESC). This data was supplemented by information from online portals where artist profiles are hosted, as well as classifieds.

Working Hours for Child Artists

Although The Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (CALPRA), 1986 makes it mandatory that no child shall be allowed to work for more than five hours in a day, and for not more than three hours without rest (Rule 2C(1)(a)), many child artists end up working for 12-13 hours for six days a week. (For more details, kindly refer to Point 1: Page 15 of the Study).The study further observes that, although standard television contracts state working hours of 12 hours per day, often the child artists are made to work for around 13-14 hours a day by production houses because guardians often do not interfere in the scheduling.

Contracts drawn between parents and producers have clauses that do not allow the parent or the child artist to refuse shooting for 12 hours straight. If the child is the protagonist of the film, she / he is required to shoot for 25 days out of the 30-day shoot schedule. It was observed that parents too did not have many reservations about letting their children work overtime. This is also evident from their (parents’) willingness to have their children available for odd shooting hours and skip school-days. Often, these child artists are the sole breadwinners of their families which leads to increasing their vulnerabilities / exposure to facing exploitation in the work set up.

The study also highlights the fact that CINTAA (Cine & TV Artistes’ Association) has come across cases where parents have discontinued formal education of child artists. Since education is looked at as the means to get employment in the future, when child artists get employment at a young age, their parents feel that it is their craft as an artist that needs to be worked on rather than their formal education.

Most parents claim that contracts are barely adhered to by producers. Although they mention all child-friendly guidelines on paper, they rarely follow the norms.  Contracts signed between the parents / guardians and the production houses generally contain nuances about the payment and shooting hour requirements of the artists.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Kreeanne Rabadi, Regional Director, CRY (West) said, “Child artists are often the invisible victims of child labour. They enter an adult world without the requisite support and care and safeguards that should be in place are ignored by all stakeholders, including parents. Having laws in place for these children are futile, unless there is a commitment from all stakeholders to ensure the rights of these children. It is time to seriously look at the conditions of children working in the entertainment sector and to ensure they are protected, even while their talents are allowed to flourish.

Child Protection at Work

Rule 2C (1)(e) of CALPRA, 1986 states – one responsible person be appointed for a maximum of five children for the production or event to ensure the protection, care and best interest of the child. In most cases, child artists are mostly accompanied by their parents or guardians to the set but none of the production houses or coaching centres had any formal child protection guidelines in place.

Child Artists and Payments

Rules 2C(1)(f) of CALPRA, 1986 states – at least 20 per cent of the income earned by the child from the production or event is to be directly deposited in a fixed deposit account in a nationalised bank in the name of the child which may be credited to her / him on attaining majority. But it was found that the money is being utilised completely on the families. (For more details kindly refer to Point 6:  Page 20 of the Study) Parents are in authority to use the payments and, at times, it is in contravention of the rules stated. In cases where the child artist is the sole breadwinner of the family or the family has come from outside Mumbai, keeping 20 per cent of the payment in a fixed deposit seems highly unlikely.

Acting Academies, Casting Agencies, and Production Houses

The study identified various stakeholders engaged with child artists in different capacities to enable their engagement and involvement in films and television such as representatives of coaching centres where child artists are enrolled for training, parents of child artists, production houses’ representatives, former child artists, and representative of CINTAA.

As per the Sixth Economic Census, there are a total of 242,495 establishments in India falling under the broad category of “Arts entertainment, sports & amusement, and recreation”, of which 120,690 are located in urban areas. Within this broad sector, data from online portals such as (Justdial, Quikr and Sulekha) and classifieds suggest that the number of acting academies in India lies between 525 and 943, of which approximately 355 specifically mentioned tutoring for children’s acting and talents. Thus, on an average, about 37.6 per cent to 67.6 per cent of all acting academies offer services specifically aimed at child artists. Taken together, the upper bound of these estimates (taking the largest values possible) suggests that nearly 7.7 per cent of all establishments surveyed in the Sixth Economic Census are captured under the broad domain of casting agencies, production houses, and acting academies.

As casting agents play a vital role in being the intermediary between the producer and the artist, they should ensure that the terms and conditions for parental/ guardian’s informed consent should be duly mentioned in the contract.

Some of the recommendations made by the study are as follow:

  • A large scale study is needed to truly understand the magnitude and working conditions of child artists and a comprehensive database of all child artists needs to be created and kept at the State as well as Central level, jointly held by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Labour and Employment, and Ministry of Education in order to ensure convergence of efforts and ensuring children’s well-being.
  • Creation of child protection policies for every production house as well as coaching centres, along with staff training must be introduced.
  • Strengthening of Child Labour Laws should be taken seriously. Regular visits by the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and information to the District Magistrate’s office could be a way to increase adherence to the law, and accountability from production houses.
  • Since CINTAA being a trade union does not have the authority and resources to put regulatory mechanisms pertaining to child protection in place although it does act as the primary forum for such complaints, it would be more appropriate for it to forward such complaints to the CWC as well as the National / State Commission for Protection of Child Rights for appropriate action.
  • As casting agents play a vital role in being the intermediary between the producer and the artist, they should ensure that the terms and conditions for parental / guardian’s informed consent should be duly mentioned in the contract.
  • While preparing the contract between the production house and the party signing on behalf of the child artist, the clauses may be phrased in a manner that they are fair to all parties involved; however, safeguarding children’s rights in keeping with the best interest of the child must be paramount.

Children are the most vulnerable section of the society, they are very sensitive to deal with law and physical fatigue. Therefore it is the duty of the law to look at it strictly, ensuring safety, security and rights of the children.

Report: Joydeep Dasgupta