Child labour in Pakistan is the employment of children for work in Pakistan, which causes mental, physical, moral and social harm to children. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated in the 1990s, 11 million children were working in the country, half of which were under the age of ten. In 1996, the median age for a child entering the work force was seven, down from eight years old in 1994. It was estimated that one quarter of the country’s work force was made up of children. In a city of Pakistan, Hyderabad children enter work force at the age of 4 or 5 years old making bangles and bracelets. They make around 12 sets (per set containing 65 bangles) and only receive Rs.40 which takes around 2 to 3 days. This is not just a situation of Hyderabad but all other Katchi Abadis of Pakistan.
As of 2012, it is estimated that 96 percent of working boys in urban areas were employed in the wholesale and retail industry. The following 22 percent in the service industry and 22 percent in manufacturing. As for the girls, 48 percent were employed in the service industry, while 52 percent were employed in manufacturing. In rural areas, 68 percent of working boys were joined by 82 percent of working girls. In the wholesale and retail industry the percentage of girl were 11 percent followed by 11 percent in manufacturing. Child labour in Pakistan is perhaps most rampant in the city of Multan, which is an important production centre for export goods.
For children working at brick kilns in Punjab, a survey was conducted by the Punjab Labour Department. According to the latest figures of the survey, the department identified 10,347 brick kilns in Punjab and a total of 126,779 children were identified at these sites. Out of the total, the survey identified that 32,727 children were not attending schools. For the school-going children, a total of 71,373 children were enrolled in public schools of which 41,017 were males and 30,356 were females. A total of 13,125 children were attending private schools out of which 7,438 were males and 5,687 were females. While as many as 9,554 children were enrolled in non-formal education institutes. 
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests that poverty is the greatest single cause behind child labour. Pakistan has a per-capita income of approximately $1900. A middle class person in Pakistan earns around $6 a day on average. The average Pakistani has to feed nine or ten people with their daily wage. Further to that there is also the high inflation rate to contend with. As of 2008, 17.2% of the total population lives below the poverty line, which is the lowest figure in the history of Pakistan. Poverty levels in Pakistan appear to necessitate that children work in order to allow families to reach their target take‐home pay. For companies, the low cost of child labour gives manufacturers a significant advantage in the Western marketplace, where they undersell their competitors from countries which prohibiting child labour. According to research conducted by Akhtar, Fatima, & Sadaqt, a main cause of child labour in the fishing sector on the Balochistan coast was the low quality of education, lack of job prospects, and lack of progress in the region. It was found that in this particular province that there are high drop out rates and low literacy rates.The researchers believe that if policies focus on bettering education that it will help aid the effort of reducing the amount of child labour.
Government policies on child labour
A number of laws contain provisions prohibiting child labour, or regulating the working conditions of child and adolescent workers. The most important laws are:
- The Factories Act 1934.
- The West Pakistan Shops and Establishments Ordinance 1969.
- The Employment of Children Act 1991
- The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1992.
- The Punjab Compulsory Education Act 1994
Child labour remains one of the major problems afflicting Pakistan and its children. Pakistan has passed laws in an attempt to limit child labour and indentured servitude, but those laws are universally ignored. Some 11 million children, aged four to fourteen, keep the country's factories operating, often working in brutal and squalid conditions.
In December 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor reported 9 goods of which 6 are produced by child labourers in Pakistan. These include the making of bricks, carpets, glass bangles, leather and surgical instruments, as well as coal mining.
Efforts to reduce child labour
NGO groups against child labour have been raising awareness of the exploitation of children in Pakistan.
Presently several organizations are working in Pakistan to reduce child labour. Factories are now registered with provincial social security programs which offer free school facilities for children of workers and free hospital treatment.
By the late 1990s, Pakistan had come to account for 75 percent of total world production of footballs (or “soccer" balls in the US), and 71 percent of all soccer ball imports into the United States. The International Labour Rights Forum and allies called attention to rampant child labour, in the soccer ball industry. According to investigations, thousands of children between the ages of 5 and 14 were putting in as many as 10 to 11 hours of stitching per day. Then, the International Labour Organization, UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry signed the Partners' Agreement to Eliminate Child Labour in the Soccer Industry in Pakistan on February 14, 1997, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Save the Children
Save the children has also been working with some of the sporting goods manufacturers represented by the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce, and Industry (SCCI) and their international partner brands, represented by the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI). This joint effort is aimed at ensuring that children are not employed to stitch footballs. Save the Children (UK) includes disseminating information about child labour on major networks like CBS.
Save the Children has also worked on projects with the BritishSecretary of State for International Development to phase out child labour in Sialkot. The £750,000 donated by Britain will be spent on education and training, and also on setting up credit and savings schemes, in an attempt to provide alternatives to bonded labour.
SPARC has conducted research that goes into producing its publications, including three major books on child labour, juvenile justice and child rights. Publications include; its annual report, The State of Pakistan’s Children and a large number of brochures, SPARC has also conducted a number of research studies. SPARC has continued to ask successive governments to upgrade their laws to set a legal age limit for employment in Pakistan, although they have not been successful in doing so.
Other NGOs that has worked on the issue of child labour in Pakistan include organisations such as UNICEF.UNICEF supported the NCCWD, drafting of the Child Protection Law and the Child Protection Policy and initiated the establishment of Child Protection Monitoring and Data Collecting System. Many other NGO's such as ROZAN have worked to protect children in NGO. SPARC and Shaheen Welfare Trust are also working to serve the Humanities.
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Child labor is recognized as the worst form of abuse and exploitation of children. The Convention on rights of child (CRC) urges the governments to take effective measures for its eradication. Child labor is pervasive problem in developing countries. Africa and Asia account for over 90% of total child employment. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that number of working children are about 250 million in the developing countries, of whom at least 120 million are working full time. Of these working children 61% are in Asia, 32% in Africa and 7% in Latin America. In Pakistan about eight million children are working in different occupations and two third of them are employed full time. The fundamental rights of child as survival, education, protection and development are grossly violated by child labor. The root cause of child labor is extreme poverty which forces the parents to employ their children for some extra money for daily living. This study was designed to collect information on dimensions of working children and to establish relation between poverty and child labor in Pakistan.
A cross-sectional study was conducted to correlate poverty and child labor. The study was conducted in the Malir district of Karachi, Pakistan, between April–July 2008. By systematic random sampling, 200 children between ages of 5–15 years were selected from among the working children in the district. A structured questionnaire was designed, including questions about the child, his family, nature of work and workplace and socio economic conditions. Informed consent was obtained from parents of working children.
The mean age of children in the sample was 10.5 years; the male to female ratio was 5:1. Twenty four percent of children were collecting papers from streets and garbage dumps; 21% were working in auto workshops as helping hands, while at the same time learning some form of technical skills; 16% were street children doing car washing or selling newspapers and other items. Besides these, some children worked in homes as house servants, did shoe polishing or worked in small businesses in the neighborhood. A majority of girls worked either as house servants or picked paper and other stuff from garbage dumps. About 83% children belonged to poor families.
Stated reasons for child labor
In this study, we found that children work mainly due to poverty. Poor parents are forced to send their children to work instead of school. Poverty reduction is the key to reducing child labor. The government should provide some compensation to poor parents for sending their children to school.
1. Baig L. Child labor a reality: results from a study of a squatter settlement of Karachi. JPMA. 2002;52(11):507–10.[PubMed]
2. International Labor Organization Working out of poverty; Report of the Director General to the 91st ILO Conference; Geneva.
Distribution of children by occupation
Articles from International Journal of Health Sciences are provided here courtesy of Qassim University