EDITORIAL: The issue of child labour in Pakistan has long remained a pressing social concern, reflecting complex socio-economic challenges the country has always faced. While legislations have been passed in recent decades to bring this practice under control, when it comes to children working in domestic settings, the law of the land unfortunately does little to provide relief, with child domestic labour remaining widespread, and jeopardising the well-being, future prospects and the very lives of our children. This was argued in some detail at a consultation organised to discuss the Prohibition of Child Domestic Labour Bill 2024, held under the joint auspices of the National Commission on the Rights of Child and Unicef on January 4.

Even a cursory review of recent media reports is enough to tell us how vulnerable to physical, emotional and sexual abuse children in domestic work are, with their lives at the mercy of often heartless employers.

The fact that child domestic workers carry out their work hidden behind the walls of their employers’ homes makes it difficult to come across reliable figures on this practice. However, a 2022 study carried out by the International Labour Organisation revealed that one in every four households in Pakistan employs a child in domestic work. The study further highlighted that child domestic labour is prevalent across all provinces, involves more girls than boys, and predominantly employs children between the ages of 10 and 14 years.

A myriad of factors has contributed to the prevalence of this phenomenon, with the core cause remaining grinding poverty. In addition, a lack of social protection safety nets compels poor families to push their children into domestic work. Further compounding problems is the lack of access to education, again due to limited economic resources.

Moreover, as also pointed out by the speakers at the consultation meeting, societal acceptance of children working in domestic settings and the indifference of parents to the possible danger they may be exposing their offspring to, have also exacerbated the situation.

Additionally, the perceptions that are often associated with such work, where domestic workers are considered to be ‘part of the family’, serve to mask the reality of there being an employment arrangement. This view has led to domestic workers being one of the least safeguarded segments of the workforce, with child domestic workers remaining especially vulnerable.

It is clear that there are too many gaps existing in the policy environment as far as the elimination of child domestic labour in Pakistan is concerned. A law criminalising this practice has become a critical necessity, along with the establishment of relevant authorities that would ensure the effective implementation of such a legislation. This should happen alongside enhancing the capacity of law enforcement bodies, as well as organisations working to end child domestic labour.

Furthermore, our society and culture must start recognising child domestic labour as a major social menace. In this regard, wide-reaching awareness campaigns highlighting the detrimental effects of this practice and the importance of protecting child rights must be launched.

Enhancing social protection safety nets that provide assistance to families facing economic challenges also remains paramount as this would help in addressing the root cause of the problem. If we want to eradicate child domestic labour from Pakistan, establishing mechanisms that help break intergenerational cycles of poverty remain essential. The well-being of our future generations depends upon it.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU Jan 08, 2024 02:15pm
Good reminder on the plight of children in our country. Laws to protect children from abuse may be useful but the real problem is unequal wages that can hardly sustain the economic basket of a family for 2 weeks. The age old ignorance of poor and daily wagers is criminal, while they have no choice but to push their young children into work inorder to survive. The education system for these poor is not important because it does not impart any skill. And hence, suffering goes on.
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test Jan 09, 2024 08:52pm
@KU, Married couples should have children according to their income. More income more children and less income therefore less children. If parents are unable to cover the needs of their children therefore cannot fulfill the duties then they should alteast get their children basic education and then send their children to vocational training centers, technical skills development centers, incubators or train them the factory skills related to textile industry, agriculture, information technology, marketing, sales etc. Government must collaborate with schools to bring matric pass school students to the vocational training centers, technical skills development centers, incubators or even e rozgar scheme. The purpose should be to avoid begging, abusing, mistreatment of these children so that they could live a better life. Parents must be trained to either have the finances to feed the children or not produce that much children and also teacher & parents play a very key role in this regard.
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