CHILD LABOR IN PAKISTAN
(Rizwan Arshad, Lahore)
God has given human beings the boon of wisdom and discretion to think upon the signs of the universe and to draw conclusions. That is the reason why they disclose the hidden facts of it and its structure and have made remarkable progress in many walks of life. Children are the flowers of heaven. They are the most beautiful and purest creation of God. They are innocent both inwardly and outwardly. No doubt, they are the beauty of this world. Early in the morning when the children put on different kinds of clothes and begin to go to schools for the sake of knowledge, we feel a specific kind of joy through their innocence.
But there are also other children, those who cannot go to schools due to financial problems, they only watch others go to schools and can merely wish to seek knowledge.It is due to many hindrances and difficulties; desperate conditions that they face in life. Having been forced to kill their aspirations, dreams and other wishes, they are pressed to earn a living for themselves and for their families. It is also a fact that there are many children who play a key role in sustaining the economically life of their family without which, their families would not be able to make ends meet. These are also part of our society who have forgotten the pleasures of their childhood. When a child in addition to getting education, earns his livelihood, this act of earning a livelihood is called as child Labour. The concept of child Labour got much attention during the 1990s when European countries announced a ban on the goods of the less-developed countries because of child Labour.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child Labour as:
1- when a child is working during early age
2- he overworks or gives over time to Labour
3- he works due to the psychologically, socially, and materialistic pressure
4- he becomes ready to Labour on a very low pay
Another definition states:
“Child Labour” is generally speaking work for children that harms them or exploits them in some way (physically, mentally, morally or blocking access to education),
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF) defines “child” as anyone below the age of 18, and “child Labour” as some type of work performed by children below age 18. (UNICEF)
Child Labour is an important and a serious global issue through which all and sundry countries of the world are directly or indirectly affected, but, it is very common in Latin America, Africa and Asia. According to some, in several Asian countries’ 1/10 manpower consists of child Labour. In India the number of children between the ages of 10-14 has crossed above 44 million, in Pakistan this number is from 8 to 10 million, in Bangladesh 8-12 million, in Brazil 7 million, whereas their number is 12 million in Nigeria.
In Pakistan children aged 5-14 are above 40 million.During the last year, the Federal Bureau of Statistics released the results of its survey funded by ILO’s IPEC (International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour). The findings were that 3.8 million children age group of 5-14 years are working in Pakistan out of total 40 million children in this age group; fifty percent of these economically active children are in age group of 5 to 9 years. Even out of these 3.8 million economically active children, 2.7 million were claimed to be working in the agriculture sector. Two million and four hundred thousand (73%) of them were said to be boys.
During the year 2001 and 2002 the government of Pakistan carried out a series of consultation of tripartite partners and stakeholders (Labour Department, trade unions, employers and NGOs) in all the provinces. The objective was to identify the occupations and the categories of work, which may be considered as hazardous under the provisions of ILO Convention 182. As a result of these deliberations, a national consensus list of occupations and categories of work was identified, which is given below:
1. Nature of occupation-category of work
2. Work inside under ground mines over ground quarries, including blasting and assisting in blasting
3. Work with power driven cutting machinery like saws, shears, and guillotines, ( Thrashers, fodder cutting machines, also marbles)
4. Work with live electrical wires over 50V.
5. All operation related to leather tanning process e.g. soaking, dehairing, liming chrome tanning, deliming, pickling defleshing, and ink application.
6. Mixing or application or pesticides insecticide/fumigation.
7. Sandblasting and other work involving exposure to free silica.
8. Work with exposure to ALL toxic, explosive and carcinogenic chemicals e.g. asbestos, benzene, ammonia, chlorine, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, caustic soda, phosphorus, benzidene dyes, isocyanides, carbon tetrachloride, carbon disulphide, epoxy, resins, formaldehyde, metal fumes, heavy metals like nickel, mercury chromium, lead, arsenic, beryllium, fiber glass, and
9. Work with exposure to cement dust (cement industry)
10. Work with exposure to coal dust
11. Manufacture and sale of fireworks explosives
12. Work at the sites where Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) are filled in cylinders.
13. Work on glass and metal furnaces
14. Work in the clothe printing, dyeing and finishing sections
15. Work inside sewer pipelines, pits, storage tanks
16. Stone crushing
17. Lifting and carrying of heavy weight specially in transport industry ( 15b kg and above)
18. Work between 10 pm to 8 am ( Hotel Industry)
19. Carpet waving
20. Working 2 meter above the floor
21. All scavenging including hospital waste
22. tobacco process ( including Niswar) and Manufacturing
23. Deep fishing ( commercial fishing/ sea food and fish processing
24. Sheep casing and wool industry
25. Ship breaking
26. Surgical instrument manufacturing specially in vendors workshop
27. Bangles glass, furnaces
Now we can easily imagine in the light of above mentioned facts and figures how the nation’s future namely children are deprived of pleasures of life, ignorance has reduced their abilities of thinking right or differentiating between right and wrong, as well as their life-chances, to their non-access to education. It is true that child Labour is not an isolated phenomenon.
It is an outcome of a multitude of socio-economic factors and has its roots in poverty, lack of opportunities, high rate of population growth, unemployment, uneven distribution of wealth and resources, outdated social customs and norms and plethora of other factors. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) the daily income of 65.5% people of Pakistan is below 2 U.S. dollars a day. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Report, 47 million people in Pakistan are leading lines below the line of poverty, whereas the Social Policy Development Centre (SDPC) Karachi has stated in one of its reports that the ratio of poverty in Pakistan was 33% during 1999 that increased in 2001 and reached 38%. The ratio of poverty in the current year is around 30%.
Consider the point that if 30% of our country’s total population is leading life below the poverty-line wherein the people are deprived of basic necessities of life like clothing, shelter, food, education and medication, the children of these people will be forced to become Labourers or workers in order to survive. Another reason of child Labour in Pakistan is that our people don’t have the security of social life. There is no aid plan or allowance for children in our country. Class-based education system is another reason for increasing child Labour; villages lack standardized education systems and as a result, child Labour is on increase in rural areas. The government has not put its laws into practice to stop child Labour in our country. Employers after exploiting child Labour, extract a large surplus, whereas child Labour, despite increasing poverty, unemployment and other problems, are pressed to do anything and everything for their livelihood and the survival of their families.
Child Labour is a complex problem which demands a range of solutions. There is no better way to prevent child Labour than to make education compulsory. The West understood this a long time ago. Laws were enacted very early to secure continued education for working children; and now they have gone a step forward, and required completion of at least the preliminary education of the child before he or she starts work.
Martin Luther as back far 1524 sent a letter to German Municipalities insisting it was their duty to provide schools, and the duty of parents to educate their children. In Sweden, a royal decree in 1723 instructed parents and guardians to diligently see to it that their children applied themselves to book reading. In Europe, one country after another; Scotland, Prussia (1817), Austria (1869), France, United Kingdom (1880) and Italy made education compulsory. In 1872, Japan became the first non-Western country to make elementary school education compulsory with the declaration by the Meiji Govt.
The present government in Pakistan has made elementary education compulsory. Along with this, the government has distributed free books in primary schools so that parents, who cannot afford their children’s school expenses, send their children to schools. The major point is that this decision must be acted upon at all levels. There is strict need to stop child Labour in this country. Awareness must be raised and the attention of parents ought to be diverted to the education of their children. Child Labour Laws should be put into practice strictly. In addition, the educational system of the country-must be reshaped and restructured according to national development goals. The orphans and other deserving children must be helped financially on a prolonged basis. It is also essential to eliminate child Labour from the country, that the political, economical and social system of the country are need to be reshaped and such steps taken that make child Labour in this country a crime. They should bring on the well-being of a lay man, good governance and end to exploitative thinking. If we succeed to act upon these principles, our country can easily get rid of this problem i.e. child Labour. The agreement that has recently been approved by Pakistan, Norway and ILO to eradicate child Labour must be given importance and we hope that our rulers must put this agreement into practice using all means at their disposal.