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PM’s concern for labour welfare

PRIME Minister Imran Khan, on Friday, received a comprehensive briefing on laws being framed, implementation of the existing laws and a number of initiatives being contemplated by the Punjab Government for welfare of the working class. The Prime Minister emphasized that protection of rights of workers is not just legal but also religious and moral obligation of the Government.
The interest shown by the Prime Minister is reflective of the determination of his Government to ensure fuller implementation of the first-ever labour policy of the PTI government in December last year that laid emphasis on simplifying the existing labour legislation, improving its enforcement through revamping inspection, and rationalisation of labour wages with a shift towards living fair wage. Pakistan is signatory to eight UN conventions on rights of labours and successive governments announced a number of measures for their welfare but still there are issues like child labour, bonded labour, gender discrimination, gender mainstreaming, labour protection, out-of-school children and lack of health facilities for the workers. In this backdrop, the Punjab Government has drawn up an elaborate plan aimed at implementing strategies for areas such as: labour standards; social dialogue; workplace safety; living wages; child and bonded labour; awareness raising; labour inspections regime; technical skills and training centres; simplification of labour laws; medical facilities for secured workers (ie those registered with the Punjab Employees Social Security Scheme) even after retirement; labour colonies and schools for workers’ children; disbursement of welfare grants; and the gradual extension of the labour protection framework. These are all ambitious goals but the real issue is their implementation both by the Government as well as the private sector. There are consistent reports that the private sector is grossly violating laws and regulations regarding rights and welfare of the working class. There is hardly universal implementation of minimum wages, employers seldom care to contribute their share towards workers welfare fund, medical, educational and housing facilities are mostly non-existent and in most of the cases workers are made to work for longer hours without overtime. There are also serious issues including low remunerations and exploitation of domestic workers. It is appreciable that the Prime Minister has given special directions for protection of their rights and the plan to issue loyalty cards to workers for subsidized purchases from utility stores and reduced railway fare.