Children below 14 constitute around 25% of the workforce in India's cotton fields, a new report has found, a number that has increased over the last five years.

Results of the study, Cotton’s Forgotten Children by India’s Dr. Davuluri Venkateswarlu, found that around half a million Indian children are working to produce cotton seed - the basis for garments and other textile products.

The number of children working in the cotton seed fields has increased by almost 100,000 since the last all-India study on this issue in 2010. And around 200,000 are below 14 years of age, the report found, constituting around 25% of the workforce in the fields. Another 35% are children between 14 and 18 years of age.

The report criticises the Indian state governments, particularly those of Gujarat and Rajasthan, for not seriously tackling the issue, and being in denial.

On the role of the seed companies it states: "The response of the seed industry as a whole to address the problem of child labour is minimal."

The 47-page report contains 11 recommendations for both companies, the National Seed Association of India and the government to tackle child labour. These include seed companies doing a proper review of their procurement policies to ensure growers have enough margins to tackle child labour and pay at least the official minimum wage to workers, and ensuring present minimum wages are actually living wages that allow adult cotton seed workers a decent life.

The report also recommends a special taskforce of state governments to ensure labour rights in this sector, and the implementation of an effective grievance mechanism for farmers and agricultural labourers.

Click here to view the full report.