Muhammad Ayub sprinkled little droplets of water onto the dry flour, in order to make it damp and perfect. He then proceeded to stamp the damp flour with a small metal object repeatedly, the function being to flatten the flour into shape before it went into the kiln.
Ayub is hardly ten years old yet he works at a naan shop in Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi. Though small in stature and a mute, he works hard yet cannot give voice to his plight. As a mere ten year old, you’d expect him to rave and complain about the arduous conditions of work and the austere lifestyle he is leading, but he does not. A hard worker, he isn’t aware of the World Day Against Child Labour
The most appalling aspect and distasteful angle of this whole situation is that fact that Ayub is a special child (on account of his inability to speak) yet he works for more than ten hours a day, in front of a sizzling kiln close to the fire. Oh, and the fact that he’s out of school when he shouldn’t, at least legally speaking.
What is Child Labour?
The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.
It refers to work that:
- is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and
- interferes with their schooling by:
- depriving them of the opportunity to attend school;
- obliging them to leave school prematurely; or
- requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
Source: International Labour Organization (ILO)
Reasons for child labour existing in Pakistan
Like Ayub, Pakistan has a large number of child labourers who strive for more than ten to twelve hours a day for scanty wages. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are more than twelve million child labourers in Pakistan which is an appalling figure, keeping in mind the fact that the country’s population is almost 183 million. These twelve million include those children also who might be above the age limit of 14 but they are made to work in a hazardous work environment which might expose them to injury or sickness, such as in mines or factories. According to a survey of the Federal Bureau of Statistics, 3.8 million children of age group of 5-14 years are working in Pakistan out of a total of 40 million children. Maplecroft, a leading global risk analytics, research and strategic forecasting company, Pakistan is placed at number 9 in the list of Top 10 countries with the worst child labour risks.
There are a string of reasons why child labour exists in Pakistan, causing impoverished boys such as Ayub to work long hours for measly pays, in harsh weather. For one, poverty is rampant in Pakistan which ensures that children have to work rather than attend schools.
Due to poverty mainly, these children have to work and support their families, even at their tender ages. Another reason for child labour existing in Pakistan is due to the fact that there are an insufficient amount of schools which can teach these impoverished children at affordable costs. Parents are faced with the obscure choice of either educating their children and starving, or employ their children in labour and make do with whatever scraps they can get.
According to the Economic Survey of 2013-2014, more than 60% of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line and earns as much as $2 a day.
Successive governments in Pakistan have also stayed aloof from the menace of child labour and never demonstrated any seriousness in tackling the issue. For one, a huge portion of Pakistan’s fiscal budget caters to the defense sector, rather than basic necessities such as health and education. The latest fiscal budget which was presented on June 5, allocated as little as Rs 75.5 bn for education, whereas for defense and power sectors, Rs 781 bn and Rs 248 bn were allocated.
The government of the day needs to allocate a larger chunk of funds for education, public sector development and employment schemes. Furthermore, strict implementation of the law which forbids children under 14 years of age to be employed as labourers, should be implemented.
Child labour is a serious menace, instead of ignoring it our authorities should make sure that our future consisting of these children are skilled, educated and up to the mark. Let us on World Day Against Child Labour, highlight the issues faced by underage labourers.