By: Aliza Sohail, Anosha Ahmed, Ayesha Noor, Ayesha Nasir & Jawaria Khan
Karachi: According to the International Labour organisation (ILO) child labour is defined as, the work that has mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful effect on children’s, depriving the children to attend the school, and also obliging children to leave school prematurely. But not all the work which has been done by children can be classified as child labour. The work that affects the children mental, physical and social health is targeted as child labour. Also, the work which affects personal development and interference with the school can also be targeted as child labour. Children from the age of 10 to 16 are enforced by their families to become a labour. Hundreds and thousands of the children are enforcing to work as a labour at a very infant age. Majority of the children left school in the middle of the study to become a labour. It has been perceived that in villages especially, representatives of several industries trap children with promises of jobs and wealth and bring them to the city where they are working as bonded labour in factories. Many children are also employed as household help where they are compensated at minimum wages and are made to do maximum physical work.
The rule of “Child Labour” began from the initial days of the Industrial Revolution. During the initial days of the Industrial Revolution poor children often worked full-time jobs in order to help or to support their families. Children aged as four years old worked long hours in factories under risky conditions. The practice of child labour continued throughout much of the Industrial Revolution until laws were ultimately passed that made child labour illegal.
Child labour is mostly concentrated in Asia and Africa which altogether accounts for more than 9O% of total children employment. India has a large number of child labour because as the slums areas of India enforce their children to become a labour from age 11. The need arises in India of cheap labour, so the companies start hiring children in less pay. Parents of the slum’s areas make their children hired, those parents are unaware of the knowledge of their basic rights. Majority of the children of Africa participated in the labour force. In Asia, India has 44 million child labourers, the largest child workforce in India. In Pakistan, approximately 10% of children are workers between the ages of 10-15 years. Nigeria has 12 million child workforces. Child labour is most common in South America, where, approximately, 7 million children are working in Brazil. Around 218 million children are working across the globe.
State of Child Labour in Pakistan
Child labour has become one of a major issue which seen throughout the world but in the third world countries, like Pakistan, it has been growing to the maximum level. This problem is becoming very intense in Pakistan with every passing day because a large number of children are being forced to do labour jobs, which is completely against the law. There are more than 10 million children’s in Pakistan who are working as labour on jobs in every corner of the country. The ages of these children in Pakistan are between 5 to 16 years and they are forced to do the odd jobs because they belong to the poor and down class of the society and they have no other choices but to work and earn a little amount to support their families. These children usually work on various workshops, tea stalls, hotel and restaurants, offices. They are treated like poor/baggers and they have not been given the right to go to school and get higher education. The parents of these children cannot afford their children to send them to schools.
Forms of Child Labour
Child labour is one of the problems that is widespread all over the world and that has affected the young generation of all ages. There are several forms of child labour like slavery, trafficking of children, debt bondage, serfdom, children in armed conflict.
Slavery is basically where an individual is owned and complete work for another person without saying anything whatever happens with him. Slaves are owned against their will from the period of their own, purchase, or birth, and they are not having permission to refuse to do the work and leave the place.
Child trafficking is the illegal swap of (buying, and selling) of children for labour or sexual exploitation. There are many reasons for which children are trafficked that include forced child labour, prostitution and forcing them to beg form other people.
Debt bondage is enforced labour, where work is swapped to pay off loans that people cannot pay off with money or goods. Such that a poor family have to hand over their child for many years, & that child is enforced to do work as a slave until they did not pay off debt.
Serfdom is when an individual is enforced to live and perform work as labour on land belonging to other person with no pay or pay with very little amount.
Forced labour is when a person is forced to work ignoring his wishes. For example, Children are forced to fight or to work as servant, chief, porters or messengers. These children are abused, often being forced to kill other people.
Sexual exploitation is the mistreating, molesting, taking advantage of somebody for personal benefits and revenue by including them in prostitution or any sexual activity.
Major causes/drivers of child labour
Children work for many reasons. One major reason is poverty. Poverty is the lack of food, shelter, money and clothes that occurs when people cannot satisfy with their basic needs. Poverty would be understood only a lack of money. Poverty is a driving force that compels the children to work as a labour and to earn a little amount of money. Poor Families which face the poverty they forced their children to work for extra income for their household. Poor families also have more children and when individual income is not enough then they forced their little children to go for work anywhere. Another important reason is lack of unemployment parent force their children sent to school as these poor people know that their children will not be able to get a respectable position in the society and they will not able to get a good job. The unemployment of adults when the adults are not in condition to do work like, disable adults or physical ill adults or death member of the family. Another reason is overpopulation, large family sizes are the main factors which cause child labour. The basic cause of child labour is high population growth rate, in Pakistan.
One more important reason for the lack of knowledge in this bad tradition is that the parents of these unfortunate children are usually illiterate. They do not have an ability to realize that what they are doing with the future of their children. They pushed them out to face the hatred and indifference of the people. This kind of attitude with children destroyed their personality and makes them like a servant. It also damaged their self-esteem/respect and forces them to bear the human behaviour of those who are very high in status to these children. We, the so-called educated and civilized people cannot even think for a while and start to re-buff these innocent children who are there at our service not by the choice of their own. They are the sufferer of their circumstances and we are taking many benefits for their compulsions. The government should have taken the steps and should punish those who employed these children in their workshops, hotels or other places.
Consequences of child labour
Children are divulging to coincidental and other abrasions at work. They are unsaved by social, economic and physical damage, which continue to demolish them throughout their lifespan. Such damages involve:
- Physical negligence such as lack of supplies of food, medical care and other essentials.
- Emotional negligence such as the dearth of family affection and endearment following in abandonment and desperation.
- Common child injuries and end results such as slits, bruises, fractures, panic attacks and faintness.
- Sexual assaults, specifically sexual harassment towards girls by males, prostitution, undesired pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and the like.
- Less educational knowledge and competing skills to acquire preferable standards of living.
Thus, above are the consequences that children normally bear in their adulthood.
Law and Child Labour
Despite the enforcement of laws at the international level, child labour is still pervasive of many parts of both developed and developing countries. Due to the evolution of agriculture, children were again restricted to be employed. There is no international agreement to define child labour. Therefore, each country has its own define laws and regulations about the minimum age of working as labour. The inadequacy of international consensus on child labour makes the limits of child labour doubtful.
In India, children are bound to be labour to pay the household debt and sometimes they are being forced or kidnapped to be a part of criminal activities. In 2016, a new law introduced which declares child labour illegal and criminalizes it but has failed to prevent exploitation. In Uganda, around 2 million children are estimated to be influenced.
Child Labour Laws in Pakistan
In Pakistan, some of the most important laws hold provisions forbidding child labour are:
- The Employment of Children Act 1991.
- The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1992.
- The Factories Act 1934.
Child labour is one of the most serious issues exasperate Pakistan. Even though Pakistan has passed a number of laws to restrict child labour in the country but those laws are invariably ignored. Around 11 million children from 4 to 14 age groups are working in factories and sometimes work in cruel and miserable conditions.
Economic Conditions and Child Labour
Child labour is very common in developing countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia and Liberia. India, with the second-largest population, has 33million child labour, whereas, Pakistan, according to the US department labour report, has 2,449,480 child labour of age between 10-14 years. Due to the current economic conditions of Pakistan the poverty ratio at its higher level because of high taxes, low wages, currency devaluation, unavailability of jobs, the ratio of labours in the agricultural sector is higher than manufacturing sector thus child labour affects the negative impact on Economic growth. Due to poverty, Pakistan is among those countries which have the lowest literacy rate and the Government take fewer efforts on this serious issue. Even though Pakistan has laws related to child labour, but there is no implication. It is observed that for the past many decades, each government was not interested to keep an eye on this issue. The people who are living below the poverty line, they don’t even have basic necessities of life. It is noted that the majority of poor families send their children to work and not to schools to meet their needs.
The child labour has its alarming rate during the last few years. In 2005, there’s approximately 10 to 12million child labour in Pakistan but now the ratio is doubled. The key reason behind the increase in child labour is increasing poverty level and low literacy rate. The children are sent to work to earn money for the survival of the family. The Girls are engaged in housework & begging on streets to earn money for their family. The child labour is passed to generation to generation because when the age of going school and educate themselves for better future the children who are belonging to poor families are engaged in child work activities to fulfil their life basic necessities. They have lower wages for their future families. With respect, at the age of school attendance, full-time jobs create a negative impact on children’s future productivity. As a research, the countries who are focusing on child labour and the children are able to attend schools are acquiring human capital, become more productive, gets higher wages and support their families in a better way. As we look towards the US, though there is poverty as well, the government takes the responsibility to support poor people by providing their children education in government schools and health facilities. There is also strict implementation of the laws to tackle child labour. To decline the ratio of child labour the Government of Pakistan should take serious actions to tackle this issue and make sure strict implementation on existing laws. Also, businesses should be restricted not to engage or promote child labour.
Minimum Working Age in Pakistan
According to the constitution of Pakistan, the minimum working age is 14 years. Though, the 18th amendment has raised up the minimum working age to 16 years without modifying the employment laws. No child under the age of fourteen years shall be involved in any workplace, mine, occupation, establishment, processes or any other hazardous employment except the child is carried in any family business or in any training school established.
The Constitution of Pakistan also states that now institutions have to deliver compulsory education to all children among the ages of five and sixteen years, that means, a child can’t be allowable to work before 16 years of age.
The government of Pakistan must ensure the provision of basic necessities of life, including health and quality education, to every citizen and especially to the poor and marginalize families. The government should take immediate measure to ensure that every child between the ages of 5 to 16 years must be enrolled in school and provided with quality education. In addition to this, the incumbent government should strengthen social safety programmes and expand to the whole country. Also, the government must ensure the existing laws related to child labour should be implemented in true letter and spirit. Moreover, if the government deemed appropriate, make new laws and take initiative to resolve the problem of transferring child labour from generation to generation. In this way, our country can get rid of this social adversity, which has been growing to a threatening order.
The writers are students of Jinnah University for Women (JUW), Karachi.