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Concerns Raised on Child Labour

The situation depicted above then raises certain genuine concerns — national and international. These concerns are based on three considerations : (i) humanistic, (ii) economic and (iii) political, all having national and international dimensions and implications.

The condemnation of child labour on account of deplorable and hazardous working conditions and denial of children the right to education and very childhood essentially follows the humanistic concerns nationally and internationally. Such advocates essentially seek to redress this issue in terms of restoring a childhood to the children and help the support mechanism.

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The economic basis of concerns has two dimensions and is seen differently in the developing countries and industrialised world. Some view the existence of child labour in developing countries a phenomenon perpetuating poverty. The child labour not only reduces work opportunities available to adults but reduces the overall wage level. Similarly, they argue about the sub-optimal use of factor inputs, as to them efficiency and productivity cannot be brought about and maintained by the use of child labour, hence this phenomenon has economic costs. The economic concerns raised in the industrialised importing countries follow their misconception that goods produced through child labour on lesser wages enter their markets at prices considerably lower than the local products. Thus their own production no more remains a viable entity, hence is affecting their production and labour market. However, it is seldom realised that a large number of exports from developing countries could take place earlier on the grounds that their production in their countries was considered carrying lower economic gains coinciding with health hazards. Similarly, their argument that competitive edge of developing countries is due to the massive use of child labour is also not well-placed. Export market of traditional items is highly competitive and most of the developing countries, in order to keep a large share, always go for high quality output, which certainly is not attainable by the input of child labour. To be competitive one needs to use skilled manpower, Their concern also overlooks the fact that growing un-employment in the industrialised countries is due, besides the major structural changes taking place in these countries, also to flight of capital to other countries proving more attractive and especially where labour is not an expensive factor of input. Hence, efforts to put barriers on such imports are somehow misplaced.

The politically-motivated concerns are most deplorable. Photographs of minor children with bricks in their hands, and children chained and working are not only shown but believed. Highly inflated figures of child labour are made and widely publicised. Take for example the case of Pakistan. The figure of 19 million child labour or 20 million bonded workers of which 8 milion are children — and these all out of a total labour force of 32 million! These are not only readily believed but widely projected on electronic and print media within the country and overseas. Such efforts certainly indicate motives other than those genuinely concerned with the adequate and effective resolution of the issues.


Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.