Hafiz Jawad Ajwad - It is very difficult to make a precise estimate of the magnitude of child Labour in Pakistan on account of numerous limitations on collecting the data. The last child labour survey was conducted by Nawaz Sharif government in 1996. According to the survey, 3.3 million children were working, out of which 73 per cent were boys and 27 per cent were girls. The children made up about 7 per cent of the total work force, according to the findings of the survey.
The provincial distribution indicated that the volume of child labour only in Punjab was about 1.9 million; three-fifths (60 per cent) of total child labour in the country. The second on the list was Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where about one million children were labouring. Sindh had a population of 2,98,000 child labourers. The lowest figure, 14,000, was for Balochistan because of the lesser number of households reporting child labour.
Out of all the child labourers in Pakistan, majority is employed in agricultural occupations. Their activities include shepherding, collecting firewood, fetching water, spraying fertilizers, catering and caring for the siblings. According to the 1996 survey’s findings, there were eight times more children working in the rural areas then in urban areas. In urban settings, children are employed in more diversified occupations such as loading and unloading of goods, serving at hotels and restaurants, working at fisheries, auto workshops, rag picking, shoe-shining, begging etc.
A Rapid Assessment on child domestic labour was made by Status of Provincial Child Labour (SPARC) in Islamabad and four provincial capitals, based on selected localities covering 2,492 households in 2004. It revealed that every fourth household in Pakistan employs children for domestic purposes. Majority of these 62 per cent were girls. However, there were distinct provincial variations in the prevalence of female child domestic workers. In Peshawar and Quetta, the proportion of girls was lower than in Lahore, Karachi and twin cities. The KP and Balochistan are relatively conservative regions and do not encourage female mobility and employment.
Street children are one of the main issues these days. They work in varieties such as shoe-shining, selling flowers, pens or similar stuff. The problem of children living on the street is somewhat different from that of children working in factories and workshops who go home at the end of the day, while street children are on their own and at the mercy of their employers. An estimated 1.2 million children are on the streets of Pakistan’s major cities and urban centers, constituting the country’s largest and most ostracized social group. These include ‘runaway’ children who live or work on the street, as well as the minority that return to their families at the end of the day with their meager earnings. According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey, 72 per cent of working children are not in contact with their families and 10 per cent have no unaware of their families details.
Multiple NGOs are working on child labour abuse, whereas the Government is also helping these NGOs by providing staff or official database.
As part of the society, we should also discourage the Child labour and put every possible effort to minimise this social injustice. We must consider them as a vital part of our youth and let them grow free rather than slaves. Providing them with education will surely result in a great contribution to the development of the country. Moreover, it will also lessen the rate of crimes, as these child labourers especially scavengers and beggars are commonly found involved in different crimes.