SAHIWAL: Around 31,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 work at 730 brick kiln industries as child labourers in Sahiwal Division alone, according to the Insan Dost Association (IDA) in a recently study conducted in three districts – Pakpattan, Sahiwal and Okara (the three districts make up Sahiwal Division).
The IDA, a social welfare organisation, conducted the study to gauge the demographic of kiln labourers and the brick kiln industry in the region.
Significantly, hardly any brick kiln industry is registered with either the local labour or social security department. IDA Exective Director Anjum Matu told Dawn.com that around 11,000 children are working in Sahiwal district, 13,000 in Okara district and 7,000 in Pakpattan district. The survey also revealed that most of these children are working at kilns along with their families.
Essentially, these families are bonded labourers. Matu explained that poverty forces kiln labourers' parents to include their children in the work. He added that 30 per cent of our country’s total population lives below the poverty line with people depriving of basic necessities like clothing, shelter, food, education and medication. “It is the children of these people who are forced to become workers in order to survive,” he stressed.
The IDA executive director further said that an education system divided along class lines was another reason for the high levels of child labour in the region. Around 30 per cent of children were forced into labour in Southern Punjab, which is the highest ratio of child workers in Pakistan.
One problem identified by the IDA in rectifying this state of affairs is the non-implementation of laws meant to root out child labour in Pakistan.
Matu emphasised that it was a high time to curb child labour as it was not only a constitutional obligation of the government but also an international commitment under various UN conventions. He added that although Pakistan passed the Bonded Labour Abolition act in 1993, it has still not been implemented at brick kiln industries.
An earlier version of this story stated that child labourers are working at 7,300 brick kiln industries in Sahiwal whereas the correct figure is 730. The error is regretted.