While the Employment of Children (Amended) 2011 Act empowers labour inspectors to inspect factories that employ children, inspections have not occurred for several years, the participants of a consultation agreed on Wednesday.
The consultation titled Child Labour and Child Bonded Labour after the 18th Amendment, was arranged by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC). The participants stressed that separate labour inspectors were needed to inspect factories which employ children. They said factories that employed children could be inspected despite the ban on labour inspections under the ECA. They also demanded the formation of a committee to monitor children’s rights under ECA.
They also demanded a clarification of what the term ‘hazardous labour’ in the ECA 2011 referred to.
SPARC National Manager for Child Rights Gulnar Zahid said children employed in the informal sector were most likely to become bonded labourers. She said the Labour Department’s own data showed there were 3.3 million child labourers in Punjab, more than 55 per cent of whom were employed in the informal sector.
SPARC Regional Manager Sajjad Cheema said under Pakistani law, only those under the age of 14 were children while under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) anyone under 18 was a child. “This ambiguity should be removed. There should be a standardised age of 18 years for anyone to be considered a child,” he said.
He said an independent commission should deal with matters related to child labour. He said even though children constituted over 60 per cent of the country’s population, legislation on them was slow since they were not voters.
Labour Department Assistant Director Rab Nawaz said new labour inspectors had been approved to check the implementation of the ECA. “These have yet to be hired,” he said. He said labour inspectors had remained in a state of confusion since inspections had been banned. “They could not introduce themselves as labour inspectors who came to inspect under the ECA,” he added.
Social Welfare Department Deputy Secretary Irshad Waheed said no child protection policy had been introduced in Punjab after the 18th Amendment.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2012.