Lahore - Experts have called upon all concerned, including the media, government and private organisations to play their role in making institutional and non-institutional sectors free from child abuse and child labour.
It is a social stigma and a gigantic problem in both developing and industrialised countries and low-income communities, they said.
Ms Munawar Sultana, National Project Coordinator, Asia Regional Child Labour (ARC ) project, said that around 160 million children aged 5 to 17 years were engaged in child labour in 2020, with 79 million children involved in hazardous work. About 3.3 million of Pakistani children are trapped in child labour, who are deprived of their childhood, their health and education, she said.
Hameed Alam, an elderly social activist, told APP here that children in all provinces of the country are being exploited physically, morally, socially and mentally. He said that hundreds of millions of girls and boys around the world are affected due to the child abuse and child labour menace. They are forced to spend a life of poverty and harassment, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed in its recent report.
To prevent child labour, global organisations like the International Labour Organisation (ILO ) and SPARC must work jointly to save children from the curse of child abuse and child labour, he stressed. Child abuse is a serious problem in Pakistan that often goes unpunished; however, there are laws in place that offer severe penalties for those who are convicted of abusing children, he added.
A total of 160 million children – 63 million girls and 97 million boys – are in child labour globally, accounting for almost one in 10 of all children worldwide. Peter Buwembo, officer-in-charge, ILO Country Office, stressed in a statement the importance of reliable data on child labour. He mentioned that an ongoing child labour survey in Pakistan would generate updated and accurate evidence for programme and policies. He acknowledged the government of Pakistan for ratifying all eight fundamental conventions of the ILO including C182 in 2001 and C138 in 2006 and enacting national and sub-national legislation, prohibiting the employment of children in general and hazardous work in particular. Buwembo underscored the need for harmonising the age of children in all relevant laws by federal and provincial governments, urging all stakeholders to work together for a long-lasting solution and accelerating progress towards achieving the SDG targets by 2025.
According to a recent study report of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), the growth of girl workers is higher as compared to boys.
The industrial structure shows that at the national level and in the rural area, agriculture engaged the maximum number of children, followed by services, whereas, in the urban area, the services sector dominated. As for employment status, most of the children are unpaid family helpers.
The occupational pattern indicates that the majority of them work on farms and in production activities.
The government of Pakistan has enacted the Employment of Children Act of 1991 which has banned the employment of children below the age of 14 years and their employment is now a cognizable offense under the Act punishable by imprisonment and fine.
Such interventions can lead to reductions in the already limited choices available to the child. For example, this legislation may mean that the child can neither work nor go to school. To put it differently, this ban does not address market failures, for example, in the education market, Ministry of Human Rights sources told APP.
Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan, through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), has so far enrolled 11.8 million children in schools under the ‘Benazir Taleemi Wazaif’ initiative, the sources added.
According to the Economic Survey 2022-23, released recently, to eliminate child labour, a total of 3 million children had been enrolled under the scheme during July- March FY2023. So far, Rs63.3 billion have been disbursed since the inception of the Benazir Taleemi Wazaif initiative, out of which Rs23.4 billion have been disbursed from July to March, FY2023.