June 13, 2021

June 12 marked the international day against child labour which was initiated in order to join efforts in the fight against child labour

June 12 marked the international day against child labour. This day was initiated in 2002 in order to bring attention to the issue and to join efforts in the fight against child labour. In Pakistan and globally child labour refers to the exploitation of children through work that interferes with their mental and physical well-being. This work deprives millions of children of their childhood and access to an uninterrupted education. The age below which an individual is considered a child varies from place to place. In Sindh, the minimum age to work is 15, while in KPK it is 16. All in all, Pakistani legislatures have produced a number of laws meant to protect children from social and economic exploitation in the work force.

However, enforcement of these laws is lacking. From child domestic help in urban homes to bonded labour, the country is witness to many forms of child labour. According to the Borgen Project more than 12.5 million children are involved in child labour in Pakistan. In 2016, Pakistan was also pointed out for failing to conduct surveys on child labour for twenty years. This led to the government being completely unaware of the 25 million children who left school and became part of the workforce in this time. It was only in 2017 that the Sindh government declared child labour illegal under the Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Bill, banning children under the age of 14 from working.

Child labourers in Pakistan are part of the 152 million children worldwide that are victim to the practice. These children miss out on their childhood and early development, along with their education. The pandemic has further increased the threat of child labour. Where many adults have lost their jobs to the pandemic, thousands of children have dropped out of school. The closure of schools in light of the pandemic has meat that many children who previously had access to education are now forced into the workforce in order to fulfil the economic need of their struggling families. While legislation helps fix the problem, easy access to education and a societal rejection of child labour is extremely important. If the conditions remain the same, experts says that four years into the future the world will still have 52 million children forced into the grim workforce.