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Child labour menace

Published on 13th Jan, Edition 2, 2014


Child labor is a work that harms children or keeps them away from attending school. Around the world and in the developing countries like Pakistan, growing gaps between rich and poor and huge price hike in recent decades have forced millions of young children to work. The International Labor Organization estimates that 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 currently work under conditions that are considered illegal, hazardous, or extremely exploitative. Underage children work at all sorts of jobs around the world, usually because they and their families are extremely poor. Large numbers of children work in commercial, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, mining, tyre puncture shops, tea shops and do other domestic services. Some children work in illicit activities like the drug trade and prostitution or other traumatic activities such as serving as security guards. Child labor is a situation where young children are employed to work. The practice is common in developing countries but is limited in developed nations where it is considered to be illegal and a violation of human rights. Child labor is a crime committed against one out of every seven children around the world while Pakistan is facing this practice at a large scale.

I would like to invite the attention of the authorities concerned towards child labor in Pakistan. It is equally frustrating that child labor, considered to be one of the core issues of Pakistan, is being neglected by the authorities. According to the survey of Federal Bureau of Statistics funded by International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, in Pakistan children aged 5-14 are above 40 million. And findings were that 3.8 million children of this age group are working includes both boys and girls, where most of them are illiterate. Many of these children are working in very harsh or even worst conditions. The difficulty of tasks and harsh working conditions create a number of problems such as premature ageing, malnutrition, depression, drug dependency etc.

Sometimes small things are big enough that we just cannot imagine, same was the case with me when I saw small children working around the surroundings. After concluding my last vacations, I was coming back to the university, a very common scenario, which we do not observe in our daily life, clicked my mind. I was traveling in a bus. During the journey after some distance the bus was stopped and the reason behind that interruption was that a tyre of the bus was punctured. The driver managed to reach nearby tyre shop. When I came down from the bus, I saw three children running rapidly towards the bus having tools in their hands to fix the puncture. They were small enough that they could not properly manage to lift up the tyre. I went near to them and asked one of them, which looked elder to them that “what is your age?” And his reply was “11 years old”. I felt pity. However, as I reached the university, I was sitting on a tea stall nearby hostel again a child came to me to serve a cup of tea. At that time I realized that I am surrounded by many innocent children who are working in a stage when they should have books in their hands. This scenario depicts how moderate Pakistani parents are letting their children to work as laborers in order to earn money and survive in this world. As a result, the majority of children works overtime for Rs50 to Rs100 a day, which seems a matter of grave concern.

Safe environment, education and freedom are the basic rights which should be given to every child. There are laws and acts which prohibits child labor which includes Article 11(1), Article 11(2), and Article 11(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan. Major national legislative developments include: The Employment of Children Act (ECA), 1991, The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act, 1992. But the number is increasing year-by-year, which indicates the violation of these laws and acts. One of the major examples is the football industries in Pakistan, where children aged 5-14 are working. Mainly stitching the footballs and working more than 8 to 10 hours a day. In spite of public sector, there are number of private sector NGOs involved to control child labor. Most common of them are: Save the Children, and UNICEF. These NGOs are playing there part to control this critical situation to some extend as they are running many initiatives and programs.

One of the biggest reasons of child labor is poverty. Due to poor economic condition, most parents send their children to work instead of sending them school to get education, so that they can bring the much needed income. This situation is leading to a worst economical condition of the country. As some people mistakenly think it is better when all members of a family work, child labor actually makes poverty worse. The more children work, the fewer opportunities there are for adults to earn. This situation will drive down the adult wages and give a lift to illiteracy. Child labor ensures that poverty will be passed down from generation to generation.


Policy prospects and conclusion

“CHILD IS THE FATHER OF MAN” the wise lines by William Wordworth. It clearly indicates the need of children in building a great nation. Every child has his right to enjoy his childhood. But in spite of this a few children are forcefully put to work. Due to poverty poor parents push their children to work in order to supplement the family’s economic status. Children’ss mind is like potter’s clay. It has to be shaped in a right manner. A child normally has to enjoy its childhood days with its parents, teachers, friends, etc. It is the age where fine and long lasting impressions gather in their mind.

Serious steps should be taken to ensure the safety of the future of every child of Pakistan. Educational system should be improved according to the modern standards. Free and quality education should be provided in each corner of the country. Educational courses in Pakistan are different according to different boards and provinces, government should implement same course and syllabus in all provinces and Boards to make sure that everyone gets same education. Moreover, there should be incentives for children to attend the school. For example if each child is given a lunch box in the school, then he will not have to work for his food. And their parents will have a strong reason to send them to the schools as he/she will be able to feed himself with acquiring knowledge. Moreover, mother plays a basic and important role in the infant part of child. Mother should be educated first. There should be special education and training programs for women. When women are educated, trained and empowered, the child labor rate will drop.

“Pakistan is proud of his youth, particularly the students, who are nation builders of tomorrow. They must fully equip themselves by discipline, education and training for the arduous task lying ahead of them” according to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Government with collaboration of other private organizations should take serious initiatives to make sure that every child go to school and take education in each corner of the country, and every teacher in class should be present. History shows that literacy rate decides the future of a nation. It is in hands of the authorities whether they want their future to be in schools or just want them to waste their precious time in earning 50 or 100 rupees a day.

(The author is a research student of Economics at Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam, Pakistan)

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