Civil society calls for comprehensive survey on child labour

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Zubair Qureshi

Civil Society members have urged the government to carry out a comprehensive child labour survey across the country to collect facts and figures on child labour in the country. This was highlighted by representatives from Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) on the eve of the World day against Child labour.
Speaking on the occasion, Executive Director of SPARC, Sadia Hussain called for a detailed child labour survey across all provinces for the attainment of concrete facts and figures. She argued it would not only help evaluate the extent of injustices against millions of children, but would also help policy makers apply targeted interventions to help curb this menace.
The last National Child Labour Survey was carried out more than 20 years ago in 1996, she said adding, it estimated around 3.3 million children to be working in Pakistan. According to a 2015 study by the ILO, it is estimated that 5.7 million 10-17 year olds, representing almost 20% of all children in the age group are labourers. These numbers however account mostly for those children employed in the agricultural sectors whereas a large proportion of children working within the informal economy are completely unaccounted for. For instance, the closest figures that are available for the prevalence of domestic child labour are from a 2004 ILO report which states this number as 264,000 children. These numbers appear quite far from the truth considering not only demographic changes over the last decade, but also the lack of any initiatives taken to curb this menace.
Moreover, both natural and man-made disasters in the form of floods, famine, and war-ravaged IDP’s have taken a further toll on these numbers for which there has been little evidence or accountability across vast swathes of the country. So far there is a significant dearth in the availability of the funds and resources needed to address these issues and to immediately stop the situation from deteriorating any further.
Despite the enactment of laws against child labour, the plight of Pakistan’s child labourers remains unaddressed due to the poor implementation of these laws, she added. Recent high profile cases of tortured child maids, and indentured child labourers have just in the recent months presented stark reminders of the abysmal state of child labour within Pakistan. Curbed together with the abject poverty and malnutrition faced by millions of children in the country the present state of child rights presents a bleak picture specifically with regard to the progress made in these key areas.
For instance, according to SPARC’s annual State of Pakistan’s Children Report some 22.6 million children are still out of school in the country. This is in direct contradiction to Article 25-A of the constitution under which every Pakistani child between 5-16 years of age has the right to free and compulsory education. It has been over seven years since this law was passed and there still remain glaring gaps in its implementation, especially considering the plight of millions of children working as child labourers in various industries across the country.
As part of its efforts of raising greater awareness on this issue SPARC has organized petition signing events at major public locations across the country to help raise awareness regarding this issue. The petitions allow ordinary citizens a chance to stand in solidarity with the millions of children working in various fields, factories, workshops and homes and urge the authorities to take necessary action against such injustices.