Like its Asian neighbors, India has a large skilled work force, which, unlike other Asian nations, is protected by politically powerful unions. However it also has an abundance of white collar workers.
Industry has grown enormously thanks to a large, skilled work force, while salaries remain relatively low. In Bangalore, the high-technology capital, a computer programmer, with skills matching those of his peer in the United States, receives one third the salary.
Paradoxically, the government has heavily subsidized higher education while neglecting primary education. This accounts for the proportionally large number of professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers and the millions of child laborers.
Since education is not mandatory, parents often choose to send only one child to school while the others are sent to work to help support the family.
One third of the work force is under the age of fourteen. Legislators have been reluctant to criminalize child labor, primarily, the reasoning goes, because a child's wages are a necessary contribution to the family's meager income.
Rather than ban child labor outright, the government has regulated it through laws that prohibit the employment of children in so-called hazardous industries.
The government and trade unions, recognizing that child labor marginalizes adult workers, is taking steps to gradually convince parents that a minimal education will improve a child's job prospects.