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Child labour in pakistan.

THE HRCP’s latest figures for child labour in the country are truly alarming. According to a report by the Human Rights Commission, there are currently 10 million child workers in the country, a statistic that is three times the official figure of 3.3 million based on a 1996 study. The figure is likely to increase in the years ahead, unless wide-ranging measures are taken to tackle poverty and bring down the rising cost of living that is responsible for children dropping out of school and taking up jobs to supplement the family income. What is also worrying is the nature of work that children, some of them as young as five or six years, are expected to do. Employed in hazardous industries such as bangle-making, mining, rag-picking, etc, many are exposed to the worst kind of physical and mental trauma. Note must also be taken of those hundreds of thousands of young domestic workers toiling away for long hours in homes where many have to face abusive employers.

Even if the government were pushed about the situation, given that over one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, any drastic action to eliminate child labour all at once would appear impractical. Child labour needs to be phased out gradually, although where hazardous occupations are concerned, this action must be expedited. Accompanying this phase-out must be steps to alleviate overall poverty and to make education mandatory for child workers so that their intellectual development is not stunted. Pakistan has legislation on child labour and is a party to several international conventions on the subject. However, parliamentary disinterest has resulted in the poor enforcement of their provisos. It is time the laws were implemented and new legislation enacted so that our children can be protected from the harsh working conditions that is currently their lot.