Let children stay children


Suggestions to reduce the curse of child labour


Regarding the prevalence of child labour, Pakistan is recorded to be on the third number in the world following India and China, continuing to have an alarmingly high rate of child labour – though the rate has declined across the globe.

The scenarios of worst forms of child labour are evident in Pakistan; whereby children are subjected to the worst forms of inhuman attitudes at the hands of elite and affluent echelon of the society. The media frequently reports heartrending stories of child domestic workers in all provinces of the country in which children are subjected to callous treatment at hands of their “masters”. This indeed indicates the moral decay of our society and the state; which seem to be responsible for allowing the powerful class to extend brutality towards the poor children, who are unfortunately deemed to be unimportant as they belong to the marginalised and poor working class families.

The provincial and the federal governments are urgently required to respond to the grave issue of child labour in our country. An immediate ban on the child domestic labour is the first thing to be required to be put in place by effective and regular implementation of the Employment of Children Act 1991. This calls for the inclusion of child domestic labour in the schedule of banned occupations. Forms of child labour – not only in brick kilns – but in mines, fisheries and in other hazardous places, as well as in the houses of government officials, bureaucrats and parliamentarians should also be placed under banned occupations in the Act. The government should also appoint its specific representatives, who can keep a timely check and balance in ensuring that no child workers are employed in banned occupations.

In addition, a stringent framework to implement Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan should be formulated. This highlights an access to free and compulsory education for children in Pakistan falling in the age group 5 to 16. The federal government should notify the provincial governments to allocate adequate financial budget to ensure free and compulsory education for children. An effective education commission should be established to monitor the sound execution for the provision of free and mandatory education for children. It should also identify the anomalies in the implementation of this process, and rectify it wherever required. The effective implementation of this law will discourage children of age 5 to 16 from being employed, and will ensure their enrolment in the schools.

It is also binding on the federal and provincial governments to improve the implementation of the minimum wage laws. At present, the ineffective implementation of the minimum wage laws paves way towards the affliction and poverty of elders in the family, which consequently forces their children in child labour practices. Though Punjab government has specified a minimum wage of Rs 12,000 per month for its unskilled workforce, not all the workers are entitled to this amount. Therefore, there stands a dire need to improve the effective and just disbursement of minimum wages by the Minimum Wage Board to make the working elders of the families financially strong to an extent that their children are not forced into child labour.

Furthermore, steps should be taken to implement other labour laws such as Bonder Labour System Abolition Act 1992. According to it, families of brick kiln employees are mortgaged by payment of advance money, and are thereby required to make their entire family work for paying the advance money back, which unfortunately they are never able to!  This unfair system, which forces the families to involve their children to work in the brick kilns, should be eliminated. The sound implementation of Bonder Labour System Abolition Act can discourage child labour practices in the brick kilns, and in other hazardous places.

The overall labour inspection machinery should be improved in order to ensure the effective implementation of the labour laws pertinent to child labour, minimum wage, employee old age benefits, and social security. Once all the labour laws are effectively internalised in the system of our society, the curse of child labour will be eliminated automatically. It will also enable the children to be enrolled in the schools, and in related vocational institutions.

The afore-mentioned measures if implemented effectively can help in reducing the curse of child labour from our country, and hence will ensure the economic development in the long-run.


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