(Rizwan Arshad, Lahore)

Child Labor is one of the ever growing social problems faced by Pakistan since time immemorial. This causes adverse impact on mental, physical, moral, and social life of children. In India the figure of child labor has crossed above 44 million, in Pakistan it is from 8 to 10 million, in Bangladesh 8-12 million, in Brazil 7 million, whereas it is 12 million in Nigeria. Unfortunately with the passage of time, there is an increase in child labor, ranking Pakistan on third position of child and forced labor. According to an estimate of Child Rights Movement (CRM) National Secretariat, 12.5 million children in Pakistan victimized in forced labor.


According to an estimate by International Labor Organization (ILO), poverty is the primary and major reason behind the menace of child labor. Talking about Pakistan, the country has high per capita of approximately $ 1900. The daily wages of a middle class person in Pakistan is around $ 6 on average. An average Pakistani has to feed nine or ten people with this minimal wage.Another big cause of child labor is high rate of inflation. In the year 2008, 17.2% of the total country’s population lives below poverty line. This is the lowest figure in the history of Pakistan. Due to immense poverty prevailing in the country, parents urge their children to work in order to reach the target of take-home salary.

According to a research conducted by Akhtar, Fatima, &Sadaqt, another main cause of child labor in Baluchistan’s fishing sector was the low quality of education, lack of job opportunities, and lack of economic progress in the region. High dropout rates and low literacy rates is the major highlight in the province. Making on effective policies on quality education can considerably reduce the ever growing rate of child labor.

Child Labor in Pakistan

In Pakistan children aged 5-14 are above 40 million.During the last year, the Federal Bureau of Statistics released the results of its survey funded by ILO’s IPEC (International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor). The findings were that 3.8 million children age group of 5-14 years are working in Pakistan out of total 40 million children in this age group; fifty percent of these economically active children are in age group of 5 to 9 years. Even out of these 3.8 million economically active children, 2.7 million were claimed to be working in the agriculture sector. Two million and four hundred thousand (73%) of them were said to be boys.

Steps Taken by Government on Child Labor in Pakistan

There are number of lawsregarding the prohibition of child labor, or regulating the working conditions for adolescent workers. The most significant laws are:

• The Factories Act 1934
• The West Pakistan Shops and Establishments Ordinance 1969
• The Employment of Children Act 1991
• The Bonded Labor System Abolition Act 1992
• The Punjab Compulsory Education Act 1994
• The Employment of Children Rules 1995

Constitutional Provisions 

Article 3: the state shall ensure the eradication of all forms of exploitation and the regular fulfillment of fundamental principle, from each according to his ability and to each according to his work.

Article 11(3): No child below the age of 14 years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment.

Article 25(A): The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as determined by law.
Article 37(e): 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.

Child labor remains one of the major problems troubling Pakistani children. Many laws have been passed in an attempt to limit or eradicate this menace from our society. Unfortunately, these laws are globally ignored. Around 11 million children between 4 – 14 age groups are behind the operations of country’s factories, working in even hazard conditions.


Minimum Work Age in Pakistan

According to Employment of Children Act 1991 a “child” is categorized as a person below 14 years of age and an “adolescent” is below 18 years of age. The Constitution of Pakistan also regards the minimum work age as 14 years. However, the 18th amendment has actually risen the minimum age up to 16 years without amending the labor laws, this has increased the contradiction. Article 25(A) of the Constitution says that the state now has to provide compulsory education to all children between the ages of five and sixteen years, which means that, a child can’t be allowed to work before 16 years of age.

There are certain exceptions to this law. It says clearly that no child has to be employed in any occupation which is hazardous for children except the family business or in any (training) school established, assisted and recognized by the government.