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Child Labour- a hapless social issue on the rise in Pakistan

Dirty hands, shabby clothes, and a sweaty brow; it would not come as a surprise to anyone that this is the description of the hardworking breadwinner of a poor family. It would, however, astonish many that the ‘breadwinner’ in question is no older than 10 years of age. Working tirelessly at a small mechanic shop in the City of Lights, the kid has lost his childhood – what most consider the golden period of their lives. The time that should have been spent in gaining basic education and in playing with peers is now being devoted to scrubbing cars and listening to the scolding of the shop owner.He does not even remember what his mother named him; his ustaad calls him chota, and this is the name that he identifies himself with. The hands that could have been used to build the future of this country have been taught to wash dirty tools and mend punctured tyres, and the pay that he receives at the end of each day is far less than what he deserves; a valuable life has been severely ruined.

Child Labour
Photography by: Pyar Ali

 


Capturing the plight of laborers who work ten… by Pyar Ali Amir Ali
Sadly, this is not the story of just one child; there are hundreds of children in Pakistan who work to earn money for their families before they even reach puberty. They work in various industries, ranging from large ones like automobiles to cottage industries like carpets, as well as in domestic, non-commercial settings. According to a UK news report in 2014, around 1.7 million children aged at least 5 years are working in the hostile environments of the illegal brick factories in Pakistan. Furthermore, UNICEF has estimated that around 90% of the workforce in the Pakistani carpet industry is comprised of children aged between four and fourteen years.These children work long hours of the day, are denied the basic sanitation facilities, and are paid negligible amounts for their hard work. In fact, one of the main reasons that these kids are employed in such facilities is that they can be forced to work at extremely low pay rates, saving costs of the settlement owners. Since the children come from extremely poor families, their main objective is to earn enough money to buy food for their starving families; given the choice of starvation and unjust low pay, they choose the latter.

In some industries, in fact, children are preferred because of their built and skills. The carpet industry, for instance, employs hundreds of children labourers because the small, thin fingers supposedly tie the finest knots – which bring the most value for the manufacturers. Similarly, in the sports goods industry, children are employed in the manufacture of goods like footballs, because the fine stiches that the Pakistani balls are famous for can only be made by children’s thin, apt fingers. This value addition to the goods, paired with the low wages that the manufacturers have to pay their children labourers, increases the demand of child workers in many industries, throwing the future of the future-builders of the country into great danger.

Child Labour
Photography by: Pyar Ali

 

Even though some governmental and non-governmental organizations have taken some steps to reduce child labour in the country, it continues to be one of the largest issues facing the Pakistani society today. According to the United States Department of Labour, the provincial governments of Pakistan took some action in 2013 against child labour and bonded labour, and Committees were established to control the same. However, hundreds of children all over the country continue to be employed in bonded labour in both the agricultural and industrial sector. Even in domestic households, young children continue to be employed as helpers and maids – a situation that is unlikely to change unless some formal legislation is passed by the central or the provincial government. To combat this grave issue, hence, strict action on the part of the government is required, that will secure the future of these future-builders of the country.

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