The government will have to end child labour to implement Article 25-A of the 18th amendment, which provides for universal compulsory schooling, stakeholders agreed at a consultative workshop on Friday. The workshop was organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) on Friday.
SPARC has organised a series of consultative discussions with stakeholders in Sialkot, Lahore and with the Labour Deparment between October 3 to 5.
Participants in Friday’s meeting observed that various forms of child labour in the surgical instrument manufacturing, hotels, rag picking and domestic work have persisted despite various interventions.
They said child domestic labourers were also often abused and must be targeted. They said the prevalence of child labour was not linked to poverty and they pointed to high literacy rates in some of the poorer districts.
Some labour inspectors said child labour also existed in agriculture sector. They agreed that child labour violates rights of the child.
The SPARC came up with several suggestions. It asked the government to immediately conduct a survey of child labour at provincial level. It said the findings of the last survey in 1996 which indicated as many as 3.3 million children in child labour was now irrelevant. It asked lawmakers to legislate a ban on child labour, including in the informal sector. It said consultations must be held at district-level to better implement the amended Employment of Children Act (1991) Act. It also asked the government to register all factories to provide workers social protection. It said the problems caused by child labour should be highlighted in the school curriculum. It asked the government to prosecute violators of the law on child labour and enhance the penalties.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) estimates that there are between 11 and 12 million children working in Pakistan, half of them under the age of 10. The Punjab Child Labour Unit records 1.94 million children aged between 5-14 to be working in the Punjab.
Separately, participants of a seminar organised by the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) identified the absence of an effective policy framework and the lack of implementation of the relevant laws as hurdles to eliminating bonded labour.
The seminar was titled Together We Can End Bonded Labour in Pakistan.
Advisor to Chief Minister Zakia Shahnawaz said the children of all brick kiln workers must be sent to school. “Once the children of brick kiln workers go to school, bonded labour will end,” she said.
She said the government had established schools at various brick kilns to impart training to the workers’ children.
DCO Noorul Amin Mengal said the city district government was also working towards ending bonded labour at various brick kilns in the district.
Mengal said he would visit brick kilns soon and arrest the kiln owners he found flouting government orders to end bonded labour. He also directed the officials concerned to find space in the Jia Bagga cluster of brick kilns for a graveyard for Christian workers.
All Pakistan Labour Federation President Sultan Muhammad Khan said the efforts to end bonded labour needed to be strengthened especially Balochistan. “There are a lot of coal mine workers who are deprived of their basic rights,” he said.
Muttahida Labour Federation (Sindh) representative Qamoos Gul Khattak said the Sindh government has made no effort to help kiln workers. Punjab Employees Social Security Institution DGd said social security cover will be extended to kiln workers.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2012.