LAHORE – The World Day Against Child Labour is being observed across the globe including Pakistan today to create awareness for ending child labour.
The activists working for the children rights have emphasised urgent corrective steps and immediate ban on child labour, especially domestic child labour, through enforcement of the Employment of Children (Amended) Act 2011.
The day, marked on June 12 every year, is being observed this year with the theme of “Human Rights and Social Justice – Let’s End Child Labour” as set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The ILO launched the day in 2002 to highlight the miseries of working children all over the world. This year, the organisation has repeated its call for action to tackle this problem. The labour rights organisation defines child labour as a work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
It refers to works that are mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school and obliging them to leave school prematurely. According to ILO, the most extreme forms of child labour is when it involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses.
Pakistan is not among the countries where substantial efforts have been made to eliminate child labour, according to the organisations working for child rights. On the contrary, the country stands in the first row of those states where child labour is on the increase.
In Pakistan, the problem of child labour is rampant wherein around 30 percent of our population is living below the poverty line due to which the people are deprived of basic necessities of life like clothing, shelter, food, education and medication; and the children of these families are forced to become labourers for survival.
According to some reports, about four million children of age group 5-14 are compelled to be engaged in economic activities. During last year, the federal bureau of statistics released the results of its survey funded by ILO’s international programme on elimination of child labour which stated that 3.8 million children of age group 5-14 are involved in economic activities in the country – both in formal and informal sectors, including factories, football industry, printing industry, agriculture beside beggary.
The statistics shows that 50 percent of these economically active children are in age group of 5 to 9 years. Even out of these 3.8 million economically active children; 2.7 million are claimed to be working in the agriculture sector according. According to estimate of ILO, about 115 million children are involved in hazardous work all over the world.
The government of Pakistan ratified the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (182) in August 2001 and is obligated to take steps to remove children from these hazardous occupations.
The activists working for the rights of children said that there was an urgent need to put an immediate ban on child labour, especially domestic child labour, by adding it in the schedule of banned occupations under the Employment of Children (Amended) Act 2011.
A press release issued by members Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) Child Right Club said that child labour was a complex problem which demands a range of solutions. There is no better way to prevent child labour than to make education compulsory.
The members of SPARC child right club urged the authorities to undertake a comprehensive legislation to ban child labour in all sectors of the economy and strengthening the application of the laws. They also said child labour laws should be put into practice strictly.
The statement said, “Composite policies should be developed to address the issue of child labour and resources should be allocated proportionately. Awareness must be raised and the attention of parents ought to be diverted to the education of their children.” In addition, the educational system of the country must be reshaped and restructured according to national development goals.
Iftihar of SAHIL, another organisation working for rights of the children, said government had not taken any concrete step to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) in letter and spirit. He said the government should enforce a ban on hazardous occupations under the Employment of Children Act 1991.