The menace of Child Labour

At least 12 million children works in pakistan

The world including Pakistan mark the World Day against Child Labour on June 12 every year. It is matter of national shame and sadness that Pakistan is consider among the top three countries where child labour widely exist. There are 12.5 million working children in Pakistan. The federal and provincial governments needs to take actions and measures to abolish or at least reduced the child labour. We are failing our children who are future generation of this country. The children needs education and their families needs employment, livelihood or state assistance to end this menace of child labour.  

While "child labour" refers to the employment of children in any kind of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. Child labor involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age.According to the International Labour Organisation, the overall number of child labourers declined from 200 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2014. The cruellest of events can be seen inside plush homes, where domestic workers experience inhuman attitudes generally.

There are 25 million out of school children in Pakistan, out of which 12 to 15 million are economically active. The government had failed to conduct a fresh child labour survey since 1996, which made it hard to correctly ascertain the details of children working in different sectors around the country, particularly in Sindh. The laws enacted in 2017 were not fully aligned with Pakistan’s international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No. 138 and No. 182 as well as the Sustainable Development Goals’ target 8.7.
  While Pakistan has signed UN conventions which protect children from being placed in hazardous work conditions and has ratified the instrument, implementation of course is virtually non existent. According to child rights monitoring groups, there are at least twelve million child workers in the country. These are children under 14 who should not be working at all under Pakistan’s laws, but of course they do.
We are waiting the day when government would introduce provisions to reduce child labour or at the very least regulate it by ensuring education alongside work and ensuring very young children were not forced into labour. Instead employment needs to be found for their parents, including their mothers. Children are especially vulnerable to abuse. They are often employed because it is possible for employers to get away without paying them the wage an adult would demand and they have no ability to fight back for their rights. 
Over the past decade, we have had case after case of young maid servants being abused, tortured or even killed by their employers for small faults during their long hours of work which sometimes stretch to 14 hours a day or perhaps even more.
We are sick tired of news stories appeared on the media about the cruel treatment, brutal torture and abuse of child domestic workers. In most of the cases, the culprits are educated middle class people. Every case expose the bitter reality that how badly most of the working children being treated.     A few weeks ago, eight-year-old Zohra Shah was murdered in Rawalpindi after she accidentally released expensive parrots kept by her owner. Her body showed previous signs of brutal abuse. There have been other cases before this.

There are 8.52 million home-based workers in the country, according to the figures released in the National Policy on Home-Based Workers; the number of child labourers up to the age of 10 years is around 6 million. This staggering number requires immediate action by the federal and provincial governments.

We need to find a way to give every child in Pakistan his or her childhood. We also need to find a way to ensure education for all. Despite existing laws, this continues to be denied and the reasons are tied in not only to poverty but also to lack of will on the part of state and all of us as citizens. 
The government should take practical steps  to abolish the child labour. A comprehensive strategy and plan of action needed to end this menace.
The main reason behind child labour is poverty. This is mainly because limited resources are available for the person to get a job or even if they find one their salaries are much lower compared to inflation in Pakistan. Poverty levels in Pakistan appear to necessitate that children work in order to allow families to reach their target take‐home income, which they need to buy their butter and bread. On the side of the firms, the low cost of child labor gives manufacturers a significant advantage in the marketplace, where they work on improbable amounts.
Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Pakistan has committed to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking as well as secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers and by 2025, end child labour in all its forms.
Legislation relating to child employment are still not aligned with Article 25-A of the Constitution which gives each child a right to education and the employment of children remains unaddressed, particularly in sectors like agriculture, factories, small car workshops, shops, hotels, cinemas, vending on the streets, the fishing industry, mining, brick kilns, weaving, bangle making, packing, domestic work and construction etc.
Denying children their fundamental right to be educated between the ages of five to 16 exposes them to health hazards, hampers their development and puts them at risk to other forms of violence, which may also be physical, psychological and sexual. 
The desire to establish a welfare state could not be fulfilled without protecting children, women and other weaker sections of the society. 

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