Little hope for child labourers
A SPEAKER at a recent workshop in Peshawar put the figure for child labourers in the country at 3.3 million. However, it should be noted that this statistic, contained in a government study conducted more than 10 years ago, is now obsolete. Currently, the figure, as estimated by human rights activists, is closer to eight million.
This not only shows the government’s utter disregard forinternational conventions, national child labour laws and constitutional provisions, it is also indicative of a lethargic attitude with regard to updating statistics on an important issue.
Moreover, millions of these child workers, aged between five and 14 years, are employed in hazardous occupations, and are forced into backbreaking labour at the cost of their health. Their wages are a fraction of what older workers, employed in the same industry, receive.As the argument – and it is a valid one – goes:
with so much poverty and such large families to be supported, children have no option but to work. However, recommendations to at least withdraw them from the more hazardous occupations like deep-sea diving, mining, bangle-making and others where they are exposed to chemicals and hard physical labour seem to have gone unheeded.
Neither does one see attempts to modify their working conditions and to ensure that they have more time for rest, recreation – and education. Thus they lose out on skills that could have equipped them for the future.
Trapped in poverty and debt, parents see no way out for their offspring. However, they must also share the blame for not attempting to secure their children’s rights, and looking upon their work in the fields or at home as part of their filial duties, and not as labour.
Only a change in such an attitude, along with far-reaching poverty alleviation measures, can improve the situation of our young workers.