Child Labour
By Shafaq Malik

March 21, 2009
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child Labour as:

1- when a child is working during early age
2- he overworks or gives over time to Labour
3- he works due to the psychologically, socially, and materialistic pressure
4- he becomes ready to Labour on a very low pay

Another definition states:
“Child Labour” is generally speaking work for children that harms them or exploits them in some way (physically, mentally, morally or blocking access to education), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF) defines “child” as anyone below the age of 18, and “child Labour” as some type of work performed by children below age 18. (UNICEF)

Pakistan has a per-capita income of $1,900 per year -meaning that a typical person survives barely on $5 per day. And that's not all, Pakistan has a traditional culture where earning of one person goes on feeding 10 mouths; and with the high rate of inflation it becomes difficult for a low income population to survive. Child labour is spread all over Pakistan. 3.8 million children in the age group 5-14 years are working in Pakistan out of total 40 million children in this age group and fifty percent of these economically active children are in age group of 5 to 9 years. 2.7 million were claimed to be working in the agriculture sector. Two million and four hundred thousand (73%) of them were said to be boys. With statistics like these, child labour is a serious problem in Pakistan today.

Children work because their survival and that of their families depend on it, and in some cases, because unscrupulous adults take advantage of their vulnerability. Child labour is also due to weaknesses in education systems and is deeply rooted in cultural and social attitudes and traditions. The problem is further compounded by the fact that child labour remains hidden from public view, making the problem seem less of a priority. We effectively deprive a child of his/her childhood if we allow this heinous act to prevail in society.
This act prevails today because it is socially acceptable. In villages, it is common for children to help out their families and work in the fields. Sending children, especially girls, to school is unthinkable and even unprofitable as the family may benefit more from the work they may do otherwise. There is a serious lack of establishments providing education in most parts of the county and this further encourages child labour.
Today’s children are our tomorrow. How many will have had to work at an early age, destroying their health or hampering their education? How many were robbed of their childhood and innocence and were exploited and made to work in horrible conditions? How many were forced into labour because their survival depended on it? And how many did not even receive basic schooling because they were working instead and so now they don’t even have a chance at success in life?
Child Labour is a complex problem which demands a range of solutions. There is no better way to prevent child Labour than to make education compulsory. The West understood this a long time ago. Laws were enacted very early to secure continued education for working children; and now they have gone a step forward, and required completion of at least the preliminary education of the child before he or she starts work.
The present government in Pakistan has made elementary education compulsory. Along with this, the government has distributed free books in primary schools so that parents, who cannot afford their children’s school expenses, send their children to schools. The major point is that this decision must be acted upon at all levels. There is strict need to stop child Labour in this country. Awareness must be raised and the attention of parents ought to be diverted to the education of their children. Child Labour Laws should be put into practice strictly. In addition, the educational system of the country-must be reshaped and restructured according to national development goals. The orphans and other deserving children must be helped financially on a prolonged basis. It is also essential to eliminate child Labour from the country, that the political, economical and social system of the country are need to be reshaped and such steps taken that make child Labour in this country a crime. They should bring on the well-being of a lay man, good governance and end to exploitative thinking. If we succeed to act upon these principles, our country can easily get rid of this problem i.e. child Labour. The agreement that has recently been approved by Pakistan, Norway and ILO to eradicate child Labour must be given importance and we hope that our rulers must put this agreement into practice using all means at their disposal.


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