KARACHI: Pakistan ranks number three in the world with the highest prevalence of child and forced labour despite a significant decline in the number of child labourers recorded worldwide, it emerged at a seminar on Friday.

Titled ‘Elimination of child labour in Pakistan’, the seminar was organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) at the Sindh Boys Scouts Association’s headquarters.

According to The Global Slavery Index 2013, Pakistan comes third, after Mauritania and Haiti, in the prevalence of child labour while the International Labour Organisation (ILO) says that the overall number of child labourers has declined from 200 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2014.

Speakers at the seminar said the government has failed to conduct a fresh child labour survey since 1996, which made it hard to correctly ascertain details of children working in different sectors around the country, particularly in Sindh.

Similarly, they said labour laws vis-à-vis child labour and bonded child labour have not been implemented as yet for the past quarter century.

They discussed the National Child Labour Survey, 1996, according to which 3.3 million children were working in Pakistan. The labour force in the population estimates of 2010-11 show that from the age group of 10 to 19, there were 2.69 million and 2.60 million persons respectively engaged in labour in Sindh. This signifies that child and adolescent labour had decreased in Sindh. However, it is estimated that there were 0.88 million children from the age group 10-14 years engaged in child labour in 2011, in comparison to 0.77 million children in 2010.

The ILO estimates in a 2012 survey that 12.5 million children in Pakistan are involved in child labour. Besides, 264,000 Pakistani children are involved in domestic child labour, according to the ILO’s 2004 report. There are 8.52 million home-based workers are in the country, according to the official National Policy on Home-Based Workers.

Sadia Husain, executive director of Sparc, said Pakistan was experiencing the worst form of child labour. The cruellest of events could be seen inside plush homes where domestic workers experienced inhuman attitudes generally.

Referencing to different reports, Ms Husain said there were 25 million children out of school, out of which 15 million were alarmingly economically active. She said none of the four provinces seem to be interested in conducting fresh surveys.

Faizullah Korejo, senior superintendent of police (investigation), Karachi South, said not all the laws, as generally propagated, were left unimplemented. He said two cases against the violators of child marriage act have been registered in Umerkot and similar activity was reported from the same district where action has been taken against violators of certain labour laws.

Syed Hasan Feroze, a retired judge, said the government and citizens should work hand-in-hand to persuade rich people to educate children they have employed.

Karamat Ali, director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), said there was a four-fold increase in child labour in Pakistan in the past 20 years.

He said just three per cent of the GDP could ensure social security to citizens, which was vital to ensuring education for all children in Pakistan.

Irum Azeem Farooque, member of the Sindh Assembly from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, said the Sindh government was far behind the Punjab government, which was actively implementing issues relating to child labour and education within its province.

Sorath Thebo, MPA from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said most laws in Sindh were not being implemented.

Mustafa Suhag, director of the labour ministry, said his department had redrafted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act and the Employment of Children Act and sent them to the law ministry for tabling them in the provincial assembly.

Kashif Bajeer and Zahid Thebo of Sparc informed the audience about the above-mentioned bills were expected to be tabled and passed by the Sindh Assembly soon.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2016

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