By Amal Younus
Children are supposed to be pioneers of the future and architects of national prosperity. But in Pakistan, the hands which should be holding pencils and books are having dusters and wipers. There should have school bags on their shoulders but they're crawling under sacks of goods. You can see such children anywhere—on roads, shops and garages. Their eyes are full of thoughts and hearts lack true happiness—they're not able to enjoy the golden era of their childhood. They are struggling hard for their survival.
According to official statistics, out of 40 million children in Pakistan, 3.8 million children are "economically active" , and these children are of the age group of 5 to 9 years. Out of 3.8 million, 2.7 million are working in the agriculture sector. This miserable condition of our country makes us speechless.
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan prohibits all forms of slavery, forced and child labor. Under the Factories Act 1934, no adult employee defined as a worker, who has completed his or her 18th years of age, can be required or permitted to work in any establishment in excess of nine hours a day and 48 hours a week.
Similarly, no young person, under the age of 18, can be required or permitted to work in excess of seven hours a day and 42 hours a week. The Factories Act, which governs the conditions of work of industrial labor, applies to factories, employing ten or more workers. The provincial governments are further empowered to extend the provisions of the Act to even five workers. But even then children are forced to work day and night in violation of the laws.
It may be easy to make laws but it’s really hard to understand and feel pain of those people who are living below the poverty-line. According to a survey conducted in 1996, there were 3.3 million child laborers in Pakistan, out of which 2.4 million (73 percent) were boys and 0.9 million (27 percent) were girls. Male child laborers outnumbered female child laborers in both urban and rural areas while child labor in rural areas was about eight times higher than in urban areas. This may be because of unpaid farm activities performed by family members in rural areas.
In Punjab, there were about 1.9 million child laborers, which was about 60 per cent of total child labor in the country. I'm really surprised that the government of Punjab is taking many initiatives to educate the people but is not paying attention to reduce the ratio of child labor, which is very much high in the province. How the government can do that? How the feudal of Punjab would prosper if no-one is left to work on their farms and fields!
Statistics show that 24 percent of our population is living below the poverty line earning less than $2 per day. Of 35 million soccer balls stitched in Pakistan, children produce one quarter of the product, most of them as bonded servants.
I saw a documentary four years ago in which the places are shown where women make bangles with their children. It's really very difficult to work in a place with high temperature for few rupees. Can you believe it? No-one can!
I think that child labor is really being promoted by the feudal lot. They have private jails. Families are forced to work on their fields, and live like animals. This factor also leads to poverty, ignorance and illiteracy.
No initiatives have been taken by the government to reduce poverty to suppress child labor. The situation has been deteriorated due to price hike, terrorism and other factors. No-one knows where the flood of problems would stop. It’s really hard to lead a satisfied lifestyle today, and stability of Pakistan is in danger.