Child Workers, Education and Exploitation in Pakistan

By: Eman Saleem

Child labor is a form of exploitation in which children are forced to work, often in hazardous and dangerous conditions, with little or no pay. Basically, child labor is a violation of human rights and has been linked to a wide range of negative physical, social, and psychological outcomes for those who are subjected to it. Not all children in Pakistan are lucky enough to enjoy their childhood; many of them are forced to work under inhumane conditions where their misery knows no end.

Though there are laws banning child labor, children continue to be exploited, as authorities are unable to implement the laws meant to protect children from being engaged as laborers. ‘A child is meant to learn, not to earn.’ About 3.3 million Pakistani children are trapped in child labor, depriving them of their childhood, health, and education, and condemning them to a life of poverty and want. There are some causes of child labor in Pakistan, such as social causes. The general nature of the social system has been patriarchal in nature.

There are also certain causes which lead to overpopulation, which can, in the long run, overburden the family. Secondly, there is the lack of education, and illiteracy is more conspicuous in rural areas. The most important cause attributed to child labor in Pakistan is overpopulation. According to the latest population census of 2017, the population of Pakistan stands at 210 million, and it is likely to reach 350 million by 2030 if the current rate of population growth persists. Another cause is a weak administrative system, which can result in various problems for the state and society at large. The rise of child labor in the country is attributed to economic factors.

The economic base of the country is not that strong, and there is unemployment in the country, as well as income inequality. According to Article 11 of the 1973 constitution of Pakistan, all labor performed by children under the age of 14 is categorized as child labor. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), child labor is one that impacts the educational, intellectual, psychological, and emotional developments of children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) has been the most comprehensive international treaty dealing with the rights of children. The treaty consists of 54 articles, each dealing with specific rights of children.

The conclusion of this issue is that authorities should incorporate provisions for surprise checks and establish a separate vigilance cell. Employers should be compelled to take steps for the intellectual, vocational, and educational well-being and upliftment of child workers. We need policies that try to alleviate poverty and inequality, as they can have a significant and decisive impact on economic conditions and social structures that have a bearing on child labor. The Pakistan government should also monitor labor inspection, and related services need to be strength.

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