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Pakistani boys sitting in a wheelbarrow wait for customers at a food market in Islamabad.—AFP Photo

ISLAMABAD: The economic condition of labourers and workers is deteriorating by the day due to several reasons, including the government’s failure to properly implement labour laws, lack of availability of decent work and continuous increase in the prices of essential commodities.

After the adoption of 18th Amendment by the parliament, the situation has deteriorated further because the federal government no longer sees itself as responsible for safeguarding the interests of the working classes, according to an analyst.

The provinces have come up with their own laws to protect the rights of workers, but these laws are often not implemented properly. It seems the provinces are more interested in getting the assets of the now defunct labour ministry transferred to them than in improving the condition of the workers and labourers.

“The implementation of labour-related policies is the job of the provinces, after the adoption of the 18th Amendment. Our job is simply to coordinate things between the federating units,” Central Labour Adviser Javed Iqbal Gill said on Sunday.

He acknowledged that deficiencies existed in the implementation of labour laws, but added that it was now the duty of the provinces to take steps to improve the condition of workers.

Each year, the government makes promises on May Day, but none is fulfilled, according to the analyst.

On the occasion of Labour Day last year, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced several measures to improve the lot of the working classes, including fixing of the minimum wage at Rs7,000 per month, social insurance for the workers, health and education facilities for them, introduction of smart cards, payment of wages through cheques and establishment of monitoring committees at district and tehsil levels to oversee implementation of these measures. However, none of the measures has been implemented fully.

While the government departments have fixed the minimum wage at Rs7,000 a month, a majority of private organisations still pay Rs4,000 to Rs4500 a month, making mockery of the government rule.

Even in the federal capital territory, several factories in the I-9 Industrial Area pay Rs4,500 a month to their workers, according to Chaudhry Mohammad Yasin, the president of the CDA Workers’ Union. Even some government departments like the Pak PWD pay less than the minimum wage of Rs7,000.

Keeping in view the high prices of essential commodities, no family could hope to subsist on a meagre monthly salary of Rs7,000, said Yasin.

“Yet, not all the organisations are paying this salary.”

On top of that, excessive electricity and gas loadshedding had rendered about one million industrial workers jobless in Faisalabad and Gujranwala alone, he said.

There are no social welfare schemes and no health and education facilities for the labourers. And not a single district or tehsil has established a monitoring committee to oversee the measures announced by Prime Minister Gilani last year.

The condition of daily-wage workers is the worst. Coming to cities from far-flung areas of the country in search of jobs, most of them sleep in open places or under sheds in markets at night.

If they find some work, they consider themselves to be lucky. Otherwise, they either go without food or resort to begging.

“I have come from Bajaur Agency. Whether it is biting cold or sizzling heat, I go to Peshawar Mor or Saidpur Road in Rawalpindi and sit on the roadside with my spade and digging tools to find some work,” Saeed Karim told Dawn.

“I look at every vehicle and each man passing through the area in the hope that I will be offered some work. Many times the entire day passes but I get no work.

“This is my life and my routine. I don’t expect anything from the government.”