considerations for ending child labor in Pakistan
By YesPakistan.com Staff
'If people want us to go
to school instead of work, they must give us the money to do so and make schools
better. Then we would stop stitching. Who wants to injure their fingers?"
-An out-of school working
girl in Pakistan
This brief statement summarizes
the challenge Pakistan faces in eliminating its problem of child labor. The
millions of children who work to support their families in often hazardous conditions
and cannot go to school do so for a number of reasons. If Pakistan's leaders
and policy makers are serious about developing a strategy that seeks to end
child labor, it must take a number of factors into account. There is no one
First, they must be aware
of the scope of the problem by properly identifying Pakistan's child labor force.
Although estimates vary considerably, generally speaking, the number of only
male working children in Pakistan is more than 19 million. This is four times
Singapore's total population. There are more working children in rural areas,
where close to half of the villages' 10- to 14 year-olds work. The age of Pakistan's
child laborers entering the work force is also decreasing: the median age is
Second, leaders and policy-makers
must be aware of how prevalent child labor really is and that it is usually
not work which is an obstacle to these children going to school. Rather it is
poverty. These children's families live in poverty and cannot afford to educate
For example, in a survey
of Pakistan's sports goods industry, over 72 percent of workers who did not
attend school did so because they could not afford school fees.
In contrast, work generally
did not prevent child laborers who were better off from studying. Over 20 percent
of these child workers attended school.
Since many working children
are too poor to afford schooling, any laws that aim to ban child labor must
be simultaneously implemented with an anti-poverty plan that eases poor families'
burden. For example, working children who attend school must at least be partially
compensated for lost income.
One example where such an
initiative was attempted was in Bangladesh. The Independent Garment Workers
Union there provided children who lost jobs in the apparel industry with free
books and hot lunches at school. However, the cost of subsidizing all households
for child labor wage losses would probably be very expensive.
A third factor leaders and
policy makers must take into consideration is the need to create a proper and
effective educational system. This will have a farther reaching impact on the
fight against child labor than direct attempts to regulate the labor market.
Child labor often represents
parents' carefully thought out rejection of an education system that is usually
irrelevant to their child's future.
For example, in the above-mentioned
survey in Pakistan, 24 percent of children did not attend school because the
low quality of the education offered there did not teach them useful skills
they could practically use in the future. Children's enthusiasm for attending
school would be greater if classroom teaching was linked with their life experiences
as working children. They could be taught what kinds of work are hazardous and
advised on how to recognize the tactics of exploitative employers for example.
Finally, policy makers must
learn from the experiences of NGOs' and civil society organizations' innovative
initiatives in education. Virtually all attempts to bring working children out
of their usually dangerous workplaces and into schools have been through non-formal
programs. These are independent of the formal education system and are not only
cost-effective, thus ensuring a better chance of enrolment of children from
poorer families, but also feature life-skills based curriculums that are relevant
Although such programs fill
an important gap, they do not absolve the formal education system of providing
good and accessible education to all children.
Leaders and policy makers
must realize that the education process in Pakistan has fuelled the problem
of child labor. The current challenge is to make all schooling cost-effective
for the government and more important, poorer families, attractive and relevant
to the needs and aspirations of working children and their families. With such
a system in place, parents may not only be able to afford schooling for their
children, but they will very likely rethink the opportunity cost of sending
children to school versus work.
Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:06:23 AM
christina: 7/29/2005 7:35:09 PM
this article was terrific in helping me do a report on child labor in pakistan for my high school history class. Thank you. I was wondering what I and/or my classmates could do to help stop child labor? -I know that checking rugmark and nike labels helps and of course i could donate $ but what else? my report is due in a week and i want to include how to help in it. so please respond asap.
SAHAR ABBAS: 10/23/2005 4:21:44 PM
I found this article very good. It helped me to make my assignment for 'children and social policy'course. I was surprised to know that Paksitan do not have an official children Policy. This is quite sad. I hope I can come back to Pakistan soon. May be I can make a difference! who knows.
Yimmie Yonson: 11/5/2005 11:04:04 AM
this artical helped and i will help you thanks
Bruce Schieck: 9/21/2006 7:35:11 AM
My interest in this article stems from my recent reading of "The Little Hero". Anyone interested in this subject should certainly read this bood. A real eye opener.
Dan: 10/2/2006 1:24:46 PM
Thanx, it helped with my middle school report on child labor. What can we do to help?????
Carolienna: 11/13/2006 1:55:54 PM
i think this article was very well written! it lacked interest though! i was very bored reading this! to keep young audiences occupied! make it more interesting!!!!!
mariam: 12/20/2006 12:53:20 AM
this website was helpfull for i was making my assignment on human rights.there are some points that i want to ponder.first of all the writer has emphasised on "education" alot.ya that is also an important factor.but on the other hand we need to improve living standard of deprived families,so that they may able to afford a child's schooling and may earn their livings effectively.even if a child is educated in pakistan,most of the children don't get equal output to their input.lack of good jobs is one of the major tragidies in Pakistan,that is the root of many problems.
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