CHILD LABOUR: A Continuous Challenge for Pakistan


The child labour issue emerged on the international landscape in the early 90s and soon gathered enormous attention across the world. Pakistan was quick to respond to the challenges of child labour in a meaningful manner. The public and private sector joined hands to combat child labour in the country. The policy initiatives, plans-of-action and legislative and administrative measures were put in place to a large extent for the prevention, withdrawal, rehabilitation and eventual elimination of child labour through formal and non-formal education. Unfortunately, the debacle of 9/11 and the resultant on-going war on terror in the region tarnished our efforts and contributed immensely in increase of child labour in Pakistan.

Distinction Between Child Labour & Child Work According to ILO, all work done by children cannot be classified as child labour.
Work that interferes with a child’s schooling or is hazardous to the child’s physical and mental growth, falls in the category of child labour. But a child who goes to school and also works for a few hours in benign conditions to supplement family income is not a labourer.

The GOP – ILO Survey of 1996 remains the only principle point of reference with respect to child labour in Pakistan. According to this survey of 1996, there were 40 million children aged 5-14 years in Pakistan. A majority of the children such as 28.7 million were living in the rural areas while the remaining 11.3 million were living in urban areas. The survey revealed that out of the total child population of 40 million, 3.3 million were working children. About 71% of the 3.3 million working children were engaged in unskilled occupations, manufacturing & transport sectors and where farm activity dominates. Craft and related trade activities were the next major occupation group, which absorbed 19% of the working children. In rural areas, 77% children were engaged in unskilled occupations and in urban areas 23% of the working children were engaged in craft and related trade activities. The survey indicated that about 67% of the employed children were engaged in agriculture sector. Girl workers had a higher percentage (77%) in agriculture than boy workers (64%). The manufacturing sector ranked second and employed about 11% children. The next important sector was wholesale and retail trade followed by community, social and personal services and employed about 9% and 8% respectively. The study found that most cogent reasons given by parents for letting the child work were: to assist in household enterprise (69%) and to supplement household income (28%). In rural areas the main reason was letting the child assist in household enterprise (74%), while in urban areas it was to supplement household income (61%).
Child Labour Update [2013-2016]

According to the latest ILO report 2013, 168 million children in the world are child labourers; 85 million of these children are involved in worst forms of child labour. The figure of child labour has come down from 215 million to 168 million globally in 2013 is not acceptable under any circumstances. The ILO and UNICEF recent reports have pointed out a rapid increase in child labour in Pakistan. Similarly, the Child Rights Movement (CRM) reported approximately 9.86 million children, 10-14 and younger involved in child labour in Pakistan.
In contrast, Maple Croft, a risk analysis firm released a global child labour index for the year 2014 and Pakistan ranked sixth among the ten worst countries for child labour. The report further highlighted that children living in developing countries with fast growing economies were as vulnerable to child labour as children living in poor and underdeveloped countries. This was mainly because poor women and children are the primary source of cheap labour in the expanding industrial base of the developing world.
Child labour exists, in all its manifestations, in Pakistan and is becoming a real threat to the future of our nation. Child labour is mainly recognized as the by-product of poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. CCF believes that a collective response and a consistent approach is the only way out to combat child labour in Pakistan. Serious attention needs to be paid to proper legislation and effective implementation of child protection laws. And, a fresh national child labour survey is inevitable to determine the exact magnitude and volume of child labourers in the country. More importantly, there is a dire need to involve untouched segments of civil society on the issue of child labour in Pakistan.