Tackling Child Labour

The preceding section is indicative of the fact that poverty conditions alone are not responsible for the prevalence of child labour. Then what should be done? Either to go for a more vigorous enforcement of the laws prohibiting child labour, about 40 countries have ratified the ILO convention on “child labour minimum age” No. 138 [see JLO (1993) pp/86-87], This alone, however, would not help in an adequate resolution of the problem.

Some argue for mounting pressure on the governments both at national and international level. The Harkin bill introduced in the US Senate, for instance, seeking a ban on imports of all goods produced by the use of child labour is one such example. Then there is the petition filed by the American-Asian Labour Institute (AAU) in the office of US Trade Representative seeking for the withdrawal of status from Pakistan on the allegation of labour rights violation including the child labour. There is a petition filed by the International Confederation of Trade Unions (ICFTU) with the European Union seeking withdrawal of GSP status from Pakistan or the allegation of existence of child labour. Mere legislation or mounting of pressure in the form of banning imports or withdrawal of GSP status alone, however, would neither help in the elimination of the child labour problem nor restore a childhood to the children. In fact, it may further deteriorate  labour market conditions and forcing additional children to   become active  in  the  labour  market  but  with  more  exploitative working conditions.

The issue of child labour, however, needs a combination of efforts with a simultaneous focus on the major contributing factors. Only then can one really visualise an environment largely devoid of the child labour practices. In this regard, the ILO has been arguing that the issue can be tackled by a simultaneous focus on; (i) improving and enforcing legislation, (ii) promoting school education and enrolment, (iii) raising public awareness, (iv) supporting community action, and (v) targeting hazardous occupations [ILO (1992) P/18], These are the important steps but they alone would not be able to help in eliminating the very basis of child labour such as: existence of widespread poverty, unemployment and underemployment coexisting with: (i) a policy formulation environment, by and large, devoid of effective consideration on employment issues, and (ii) importantly, absence of an institutional mechanism needed for employment counselling, vocational guidance, labour market monitoring, generating detailed and disaggregated information, etc, known as labour market information system (LMIS).

The situation thus requires a simultaneous focus on; (i) revamping education and training system, (ii) developing a comprehensive labour market information system, (iii) preparation of an employment policy, (iv) special focus on poverty alleviation, (v) special projects for child labour elimination and rehabilitation, (vi) evolving a social security system, (vii) raising public awareness, and (viii) enforcing legislation especially targeting hazardous occupations. This is a tall order but nevertheless needs to be vigorously pursued. Piecemeal and isolated efforts would not be able to address the issue. These points are briefly elaborated in the following sub-sections in a way that first five are treated separately, while the remaining three are discussed jointly under “other measures.”


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

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