Taking action against child labour through labour Law – Wajeeha Tamseel

More than 200 million children are involved in work around the world today. With the growing requirements of our country, it is the most important thing to teach every child of country for the development of strong nation. In our country over 27 million children are out of school nowadays due to working. The literary Rate of Pakistan is about 54% (66.25% male) and (41.75% female). Maybe it is a huge task for the government. The burning question however, is why our government not implementing the prevailing laws against child labour?

According to ILO, child Labour is a work that has the potential to deprive children of their childhood, their dignity, and is also harmful for their physical, moral and mental development & it interferes with their education. We have some laws in Pakistan prohibit the Employment of children’s. There is a need to first have a look at the constitutional provisions pertaining to child labour.

According to the four basic Articles of the Constitution of Pakistan,
(i) the state shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation & the gradual fulfillment principle, from each according to his ability & to each according to his work (Article 3)
(ii) (ii) No child below the age of 14 years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment (Article 11 (3))
(iii) (iii) The state shall provide free & compulsory education to all children of the age of 5 to 16 year in such a manner as determined by law (Article 25 (A)
(iv) (iv) The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring that women and children are not employed in vacations unsuited to their age or sex, and for maternity benefits for women in employment (Article 37 (e))

The constitution of Pakistan contains provisions for the Economic & social well being of the people & for the promotion of social justice. However, according to UNICEF there is an estimated 250 million children aged 5-14 in child labour, excluding child domestic labour. Similarly, in many cultures the girls are not given access to formal schooling & are pushed into child labour such as providing domestic services.

“ Child labour is a crime against humanity “

Children’s are working in the areas of agriculture, carpet weaving, soccer balls, automobile workshops, mining, stone cutting, mixing pesticides, glass factory and much more.

The main causes of the increasing rate of child labour in our country are absence of compulsory education at the primary level, parental ignorance regarding impact of child labour, the ineffectiveness of child labour laws, non-availability & non-accessibility of schools. Parents are forced to send little children into hazardous jobs for reasons of survival, even when they know it is wrong. Illiterate & ignorant parents do not understand the need for wholesome proper physical, cognitive, & emotional development of their child.

The law also provides for certain exceptions. It says that no child has to be employed in any occupation, establishment, or process defined as hazardous for children except where such process is carried by the family as a business or in any school established, assisted & recognized by government. The minimum age for employment under newly enacted legislation is 14 years in khyber pakhtunkhwa & Sindh, while 15 years in Punjab. The minimum age for hazardous work is still 14 years in Balochistan & ICT, however it has been raised to 18 years in khyber pakhtunkhwa, Punjab & sindh. The number of laws contain provisions prohibiting child labour, or regulating the working condition of child & adolescent worker.

The most important laws which are related to child Labour are:
• The factories Act 1934
• The west Pakistan shops & establishment ordinance 1969
• The employment of children Act 1991
• The bonded labour system Abolition Act 1992
• The Punjab compulsory Education Act 1994

Child labour remains one of the major problems afflicting Pakistan & it’s children. Pakistan has passed laws in an attempt to limit child Labour & indentured servitude, but those laws are persistently ignored. The major question is that how does government regulate working conditions for children and adolescents? In accordance with part III and section 7 of the Employment of Children Act, a child or adolescent can’t work more than 7 hours a day (it includes one hour of rest, so essentially 6 hours of work). The work has to be arranged in such a way that after every 3 hours of continuous work, the worker has to have an interval of at least one hour of rest. A child can’t be permitted or required to work between 07:00 p.m. to 08:00 a.m. Moreover, a child can’t be required or even permitted to work overtime. 

The Factories Act 1934 contains the following provisions regarding employment of children. Section 50 of the Act prohibits employment of children (under the age of 14 years) in any factory. Section 51 requires adolescent workers (who are above 14 years of age and below the age of 18 years) are not allowed to work in a factory unless:
i) A certificate of fitness has been issued to them by a qualified medical practitioner and that certificate is in the custody of the manager
ii) He carries, while at work, a token giving reference to such certificate

No child or adolescent shall work at a machine unless he has been fully instructed as to the dangers likely to arise in the course of work with the machine and precautions to be observed. Similarly, he/she must have received sufficient training in work at a machine or is working under adequate supervision by a person who has thorough knowledge and experience of the working of machine (Section 28 of theFactories Act). No woman or child shall be employed in any part of the factory for pressing cotton in which a cotton opener is at work.

As for the Mines Act, it prohibits employment of children in any part of the mine and even presence of children in any part of the mine which is below ground. It also has provision on medical certificate like the one mentioned above.

According to the Road Transport Workers Ordinance 1961, no person, other than the driver, shall be employed in any road transport service unless he has attained the age of eighteen years. Further, it also requires the driver to be of twenty-one years of age. 

According to the Shops and Establishments Ordinance 1969, no child shall be allowed or required to work in any establishment (section 20). It also requires that no young person (this term has been used collectively for children and adolescents i.e. between 14-18 years) shall be employed in any establishment other than between the hours of 09:00 a.m. and 07:00 p.m. (section 7). In accordance with section 8 of the act, no young person is permitted or required to work more than 7 hours a day (these include one hour of rest) and 42 hours a week.

The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933 stipulates that every agreement that pledges the services/labour of a child for any payment or benefit is null and void. However, it provides an exception for an agreement if that is made, without any detriment to the child and if child’s services are provided for reasonable wages and if that agreement is terminable at weeks’ notice.

The Merchant Shipping Ordinance 2001 (section 110) provides that no person under the age of 15 shall be engaged or carried to sea to work in any capacity in any ship except:
• In a school ship, training in accordance with the prescribed conditions
• In a ship in which all persons employed are members of one family.

In accordance with section 14 of the Employment of Children Act, whosoever employs any child or permits any child to work in occupations and processes mentioned above, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to PKR 20, 000 or with both. If a person, who was already convicted under the law, commits the same offence again, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years. 

Penalties have been raised in the newly enacted legislation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh to a minimum of 50,000 rupees fine. Otherwise child labour is not a big deal to handle, it just needs the focusing behaviour of society.
There is need to attempt the points of child labour law, for the flourishing of working children’s. Education is their birth right so against child labour, we must fight!

The author can be reached at jiamirza28@yahoo.com. All views, data, analysis and content submitted is the sole responsibility of the author. LEARN takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the content used here in. The views expressed are of the author and not necessarily those of LEARN.

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