Child labour — a forgotten issue

Published: June 17, 2017

LAHORE: On Monday, June 12th, the World Day Against Child Labour was observed. But the day focusing attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it, holds least significance in Pakistan. The country is regularly near the top of the list of the countries where child labour is common.

According to a report published in 2012, over 12.5 million children in Pakistan are involved in child labour. That means over 10 per cent of the country’s populace is engaged in child labour and let’s not forget that many instances of it often go unreported as children serving as domestic help rarely manage to make the count.

But despite these statistics, the blatant ignorance of the issue is a cause of concern as many segments of society choose to pretend that child labour doesn’t exist and go on to employ a child, under the age of 14, as their domestic help or sit at roadside dhabas only to ask for chai from children waiting tables. Tayyaba’s torture case reported at the beginning of the year managed to create countrywide outrage, which had more to do with the torture she allegedly received than the fact that a 10-year-old was the domestic helper.

Initiatives taken to curb the situation have only been limited to spreading awareness with little efforts on ground. With 2017 World Day Against Child Labour focusing on the impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour, Pakistan’s situation looks grimmer.

Globally, around 200 million people are affected by disasters every year and a third of this proportion are children. Conflict and disaster hit areas are more prone to have child labour owing to the limited resources they are left with. This means war in Waziristan, famine in Thar and other conflict or disaster hit zones in the country can further aggravate the situation, or, perhaps, already have. And the situation may only get worse as depriving a child of education means perpetuating a cycle of poverty, violence and inequality, which only adds to the already growing problems of the country.

Fawad Hussain

Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2017.

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