In 2009, all UN member states signed a declaration against “forced labour and employment of children below the age of 14”. Considering Pakistan is a member of the UN, these laws are applicable to Pakistan and punishable as well. According to Article 11 of the Constitution of Pakistan, parents do not have the right to subject their child to labour before the age of 15.
However, in recent years, there has been a significant growth in child labour whilst the literacy rate has fallen. Increased inflation and unemployment have forced people to take children out of schools and send them to work from a young age. Child labour has paved the way for other social evils, including drug trafficking which has become rampant in our society. The children are regularly recruited by mafias or mafia bosses who drug children without their consent. Consequently, the children form addiction and continue using the drugs, which results in poor health and premature death. Drug trafficking reduces labour participation whilst increasing healthcare costs. This causes a loss of productivity, which has a negative impact on the economy.
The government should begin with eliminating child labour by reforming the education system and making secondary education mandatory. This will prevent children from going into child labour. Also, law enforcement agencies will be required to take rigorous action in resolving drug abuse and drug trafficking because the security personnel cannot undertake this task on their own. I hope the authorities concerned will acknowledge the gravity of the matter and adopt appropriate measures to tackle these issues.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2021.