Child Labor Alarmingly Rising in Pakistan

By Jamil Bhatti, Zeeshan Niazi for  Xinhua News Agency

Shahzab, 10 years old, screwing the parts of motorbikes in a workshop with tinted hands and cloths with oil, was unaware of the seminar being held on the Child Labor Day in a five star hotel on Saturday in Islamabad.

“I don’t know what kind of this day is. I come for work at 8 a. m. and remain here till 8 p.m.,” Shahzab told Xinhua.

Shahzab is living with his senior mechanic and the owner of the workshop for last four years. His father handed him to the owner due to poverty. Now his father comes monthly only to receive his wages, about 1,200 rupees (1 dollar about equals 85 rupees) per month.

“Why the people don’t know these children are flowers of heaven and a beautiful creation of God, we should bring them up in soothing atmosphere instead of these hardships,” said Muhammad Zubair, a customer in the workshop.

Millions of children might be seen throughout the country working as a full time laborer even on the day when the International Labor Organization (ILO) along with other organizations, appealed to the world to “go for the goal – end child labor.”

ILO aims to end the worst form of child labor by 2016. But in Pakistan the child labor is growing instead of ending or lessening.

The Survey of All Pakistan Labor Force in 2007 and 2008 showed that there have been over 21 million labor children between the ages of 10 to 14 working in the country, out of which 73 percent are boys and 27 percent are girls. It is almost double of what Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated in 2005.

Pakistan’s National Child Labor Survey conducted in 1996 found that 3.3 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 were working in different fields on full time basis across the country. In Pakistan, ILO, along with Provincial Labor Department, is working to organize speech competition, an exhibition of paintings, a magic show for kids, and a street walks to raise awareness among people against the child labor.

Activists working to eliminate the child labor said that children work in the rural areas as bonded workers and often are not paid for their labor. Most of them work only for food and shelter that they get from the employer.

Sagheer Aslam, a child rights activist in Islamabad, is of the view that poverty, illiteracy and parents’ authority over the children’s choice of work and wages are the main reasons behind the child labor.

“Social status, lack of proper skills and the ignorant attitude of the society are some other major factors in the promotion of this social evil,” said Aslam.

The number of child laborers is rising day by day in Pakistan, opposite to the other parts of the world.

Sahiba Irfan, program officer of Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), does not support the marking of international child labor day.

“This specific day cannot bring any change in the society for child labor or for any other problem. There should be all time struggle to create awareness among people for some positive change, ” she said. Irfan considered it is very hard to eradicate this evil suddenly from a society where more than 50 percent people are living below the poverty line.

“This practice continues for centuries. It is impossible to finish it in one go but we can change child labor into child work by sending children to school and to work for part time,” she added.

SPARC, an organization working for the rights of the children in Pakistan, is drafting a law to present it before the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament, for getting the approval to implement it. Figures and their analysis advocated that the child labor is getting worse with every coming day in the country.

Children are found working in every field of life but some are the most common, like work inside mines, cutting marbles, mixing of pesticides, cement industry, filling gas cylinders, textile factories, stone crushing, hotels, workshops, carpet waving, deep fishing and glass factories.

Laik Khanzada, nine-year-old trainee motor mechanic, still wishes to go to school but cannot fulfill it. “I used to go to school but then left because we had no fee to pay,” said Khanzada, who wishes to be an officer if he gets a chance to study.

Owners of the workshops can’t help to appoint them in their workshops as trainee due to many reasons. “They come here due to poverty, if we do not keep them, they will become dangerous for society being loafer and addicted to drugs,” Yardost Khan, a workshop owner in Islamabad, told Xinhua.

Khan, responding to a question, said that it is not their duty but of the government to send them to school. “We are here only to teach them mechanical techniques for their future livelihood,” Khan said. Moving around Pakistan’s streets we can see underage children working very hard. If some one asks them the reason, they have only one answer “poverty”.

Continuing rise in the number of labor children hints that marking of this international day is limited only to the conferences in five star hotels. The children plight demands some serious actions to solve their problems.

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    • Asaad
    • January 27th, 2011

    Please let me know where this figure of 21 million come from. It is not given in Labour Force survey report. 13% participation of those aged 10-14 years is mentioned only

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