‘Poverty, child labour still daunting challenges for Pakistan’
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, in his opening address to the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour on November 14, 2017, in Buenos Aires, said 152 million children were victims of child labour in the world, i.e. almost one in 10, and about half of them were in hazardous work.
In a new ILO report released to coincide with the IV Global Conference, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called for stepped-up efforts to “consign child labour to the dustbin of history”.
The report says improving legal protections, labour market governance, social protections, access to quality education and social dialogue between governments, the social partners and other stakeholders are critical aspects in battling child labour.
Target 8.7 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda calls for the elimination of child labour in all its forms by 2025, and of forced labour by 2030. According to the latest ILO estimates, there are 25 million victims of forced labour worldwide.
The ILO report and the statement came at a time when the world celebrated the United Nation’s Universal Children’s Day on Nov 20. November 20th’s importance is due to two reasons. One, on this date in 1959 the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
After failing to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Pakistan is now a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-30). Besides the target of 8.7 on elimination of child labour, the goals 2 and 3 of the SDGs call for ending hunger and improve global health respectively.
Pakistan ranked 78 out of 109 countries according to the Global Food Security Index. As many as 40 per cent of children under the age of five are underweight according to a World Health Organization survey. Iodine, iron and protein deficiencies result in an annual loss of 3-4pc of the GDP. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) estimates 37.5 million people of Pakistan are not adequately nourished. To add, an estimated 45 per cent of deaths in children under the age of five are caused by poor nutrition (State of Pakistan’s Children 2016 report SPARC). The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) -- endorsed by the 194 member states of the World Health Assembly in May 2012 ― is a framework to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities.
According to the 2012-13 Pakistan Demographic & Health Survey (PDHS), 54 per cent of Pakistani youths age 12-23 months have received all recommended vaccines -- one dose each of BCG and measles and three doses each of DPT and polio. Only 5 per cent of children did not receive any of the recommended vaccines. Vaccination coverage is 66 per cent in urban areas and 48 per cent in rural areas. Full vaccination coverage varies by region, ranging from 16 per cent of children in Balochistan to 74 per cent in ICT Islamabad. Coverage increases with mother’s education; 76 per cent of children whose mothers have higher education were fully vaccinated compared with 40 per cent of children whose mothers have no education.
While Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) (2014-15) gives the figures of fully immunised children in Pakistan and Sindh at 82 per cent and 73 per cent respectively. Another micro census 2017 (PCCHI) for immunisation and Urban slums puts the number of Zero Dose Children at 45 per cent in Karachi and 16 per cent in Hyderabad.
While taking a review of budget allocated by various provincial governments of Pakistan for the year 2016-17, the SPARC report says that the government of Punjab earmarked 43.8 billion for health. The government set aside Rs1 billion for an expanded programme for immunisation (EPI), Rs500 million for prevention and control of hepatitis in Punjab, and Rs 400 million for an infection control programme.
The Sindh government increased allocation for health by 7.7 per cent to Rs14 billion in its annual development plan for 2016-17. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa allocated Rs21.576 billion for healthcare in 2016-17, while Balochistan earmarked 17.37 billion for health. Though the earmarked budget is not enough but if utilised properly, it can solve many problems.
As many as 29.5 per cent of the country’s population (approximately 55 million) is living below the poverty line, according to the Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms.
The children constitute 49 per cent of Pakistan’s total population. It is very difficult to give correct statistics regarding child labour in Pakistan, due to various reasons including that of lack of data. The last child labour survey was conducted by the government in 1996. According to this survey, 3.3 million of the 40 million children were found to be economically active on a full-time basis. Of the 3.3 million working children, 73 per cent (2.4 million) were boys and 27 per cent (0.9 million) were girls. Officially children made up about seven per cent of the total work force according to the findings of the survey.
The provincial distribution indicated that the volume of child labour in Punjab was about 1.9 million; three-fifths (60 per cent) of total child labour in the country. The second on the list was NWFP, where about one million children were working. Sindh had a population of 298,000 child labourers. The lowest figure was for Baluchistan, 14,000, because of the lesser number of households reporting child labour.
According to a press report of June 2016, quoting a statement by the Child Rights Movement (CRM) National Secretariat, 12.5 million children in Pakistan are involved in labour. There are 8.52 million home-based workers in the country, according to the figures released in the National Policy on Home-Based Workers, the number of child labourers up to the age of 10 years is around 6 million, the statement says.
Pakistan is also so a signatory to the ILO Convention on Worst Forms of Child Labour No 182. According to ILO an estimated 85 million children, aged 5-17, working in dangerous conditions. Worldwide, the ILO estimates that some 22,000 children are killed at work every year. The numbers of those injured or made ill because of their work are not known. During the year 2001 and 2002, the Government of Pakistan prepared an initial list of 29 hazardous occupations. Later, more were added, but the violation continues.
Making provisions under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the Sindh province early this year, passed Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act 2017, through which any child under the age of 14 years will not be allowed to work. Any employer violating this law will be imprisoned for up to six months or he will have to pay a fine of up to Rs 50,000, or both. “If a child is employed in hazardous work, such as stone crushing or carpet weaving, the fine will be extended to Rs100,000 and three-year imprisonment,” states Clause 13 of the law. The law also prohibits adolescents to work between 7pm and 8am.
With the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child 1989, it is mandatory for the Pakistan government to take steps for bringing its laws/rules/procedures relating to child care/protection/development in accordance with the principles of the convention while not losing sight of absolute poverty in the country.