Child labor is an intricate issue especially for developing countries like Pakistan where there is no protection for people’s rights, leave alone children’s rights. But more importantly the use of child labor in the textile industry and sports goods industry of Pakistan has been a source of serious concern for the country over the past few years. Use of child labor began in 1960 and since then it has been used as a means to expand the manufacturing base in Pakistan.
Before the 60′s child labor was widespread within family businesses but seldom did children work outside home. With the increase in the number of new factories and a desire by factory owners to lower labor costs, Pakistan’s explosion of a child based labor force stacked the country’s economy. Poverty is by far the most important reason for the use of child labor in Pakistan’s manufacturing industry. Majority of the families in Pakistan lie below the poverty line which leaves them with no option but to send their children to work so they can add to the family income.
Increase in inflationary pressure affects the poor and the underprivileged segment of the society the most. Rising prices of basic necessities and high utility bills, displacement adds to the vulnerability to the worst forms of child labor. There is a deficiency of the Education System in Pakistan which leads to children going to work rather than going to schools to acquire education. The educational facilities available in small cities of the country are so poor and insufficient that parents have no motivation to send their children to schools so they prefer sending their children to work in the factories.
In a developing country like Pakistan there are hardly any traces of Labor Protection found. Although there are various laws to protect exploitation of labor they are rarely implemented. ILO programs and initiatives also change the bitter situation. Now the manufacturers were bound to provide details about production, labors etc. over a period of 18 months. Members of IPEC made regular visits to the production centers to determine whether there was any child labor employed in the industry. When traces of child labor were found IPEC ordered the manufacturers to take immediate action or else their membership from IPEC would be removed.
However, various steps have been taken to eradicate child labor from the industries; a change in the local attitude of the workers is the most significant factor to maintain a long lasting impact on the prevalence of child labor in the country. Awareness among workers about labors rights is a necessary thing.
Institute for Research Advocacy and Development (IRADA) has held two-day training program on ‘Promoting labor rights in Pakistan’. Representatives of different media groups, including print and electronic media, news agencies, web developers, community radio and others participated in the training. Aoun Sahi, Journalist/ trainer gave presentation on labor issues and discussed the subject of labor rights in detail. The other participants also discussed the rights of workers, constitutional and legal protection to Labor rights, and decent work agenda of International Labor Organization.
It’s the theme of two days discussion that awareness does play a key role in the rural areas among labors, state should create awareness among labors in rural areas and implementation of the labor laws is urgently needed which is also the requirement of the justice. The training program is being supervised by the Aftab Alam and Lala Hassan Pathan. Both are agreed that more efforts are required to bring in majority of labor under unions which is not possible without government support. Agriculture sector is excluded from labor laws in Pakistan and the agriculture work force has no protection, not even on paper. Labor rights in agriculture sector are neglected while agriculture sector is main contributor to economy. Bonded labor is another serious challenge which is highly neglected despite provision of laws such as Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act of 1992.
Health and safety of workers, equal opportunity, elimination of child labor, minimum age of workers, social security, skill development, workers’ rights and relation with employers, workers’ freedom of association, dispute and conflict resolution, and improvement in labor laws need attention.
By Waqar Fani, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, March 10, 2014