The bane of child labour
CHILD labour in the country shows no signs of abating as pointed out by participants in a workshop organised by the ILO in Islamabad.
While, according to a government study, the number of child labourers in Pakistan was 3.3 million in 1996, the HRCP put the figure at 10 million in 2005.
This shows that despite the best efforts of NGOs and the assurances by government departments that child labour was being tackled, the problem is assuming alarming proportions.
It is linked to the scourge of poverty in the country and can only be removed if measures are taken to reduce the level of destitution that forces families to send their young ones to workplaces to earn instead of schools.
Under the present circumstances, it would be impractical to suggest that children stop working altogether, even though the law banning the employment of children in certain industries must be implemented.
The emphasis should be on easing their current work conditions besides ensuring that the very young ones are not sent out to work. At the moment, a large number of children are employed in hazardous occupations such as coal mining and deep sea diving, while children even as young as five or six years are engaged in other forms of labour.
Besides, up to 70 per cent are illiterate, a poor reflection on the government’s commitment to education, especially for the deprived members of society.
The government has also been lax in carrying out inspections of workplaces to ensure that children are not getting a rough deal and that rules regarding their employment, such as maintaining a balance between work and rest, are being observed.
In the absence of such monitoring, employers have been given a free hand to exploit children and most do so by paying them a pittance for long hours of back-breaking labour.