Child Labour is a condemnable phenomenon and elimination of child labour is a feasible objective. It must be eradicated altogether, for democratic and healthy growth of the society. Children should grow into adulthood through love and care, education and training. Health of the society depends upon the physical, moral and spiritual development of its children.
The awareness of the problem provided basis for the enactment of the Employment of Children Act, 1991 followed by a number of administrative and other initiatives to address the issue of child labour effectively. Struggle against child labour gained further momentum when Pakistan's trade privileges were adversely affected with the filing of cases against the country before the United States Trade Representative and subsequently before the European Commission by AFL-CIO in 1993 and ICFTU in 1995, respectively on the allegation of widespread incidence of child and bonded labour.
Pakistan's political and legislative commitment against child labour was more expressly and articulately pronounced in signing ILO-IPEC Memorandum of Understanding on June 21,1994.
ILO-IPEC Action Plan in Pakistan formalized activities against child labour and a concerted and coordinated effort by Governmental Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, Trade Unions, employers' bodies and other organizations was initiated. Ground breaking work by ILO-IPEC in developing the strategies and models had an awareness and demonstration effect. A path has now been paved for a future comprehensive and integrated strategy and plan of action by launching prominent sectoral projects like in soccer ball, carpet manufacturing and surgical instruments. Efforts at individual level are also being made elsewhere. Government of Pakistan in order to crystallize and systematize its programme against child labour constituted a Task Force on Child Labour, consisting of Minister for Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis as Chairman and Secretaries for Interior; Information; Commerce; and Labour; Additional Secretary Foreign Affairs; and Provincial Labour Secretaries as Members. Task Force thus established in March 1998 is mandated with the TOR:
Formulation of policies and strategies for elimination of child and bonded labour in Pakistan and to counter adverse propaganda both at national and international level. Preparation of plans for implementation of policies and strategies. Portfolio of Policy and Strategies along with parameters for Action Plan evolved by a special committee set up by the Task Force provided premises for formulation of national action plan and policy. Target Group
The National Action Plan targets, in specific, those children, falling in the age group 5-14 years, who are economically active and form part of labour force, and in general those who are not in schools.
According to the 1998 census, the total number of children in Pakistan (excluding AJK, FATA and Northern Areas) in the age group 5-14 was 36.431 million; 19.944 million of 5-9 years and 16.487 million of 10-14 years. This comes out to be 29% of the total population. Total children of up to 14 years of age were 55.042 million, about 43% of the total population.
Calculated on the basis of labour force participation rates, the quantum of children engaged in economic activity comes out to around 3 million. According to the National Child Labour Survey, conducted in 1996, about 59% of the total child labour exists in Punjab, 32% in NWFP 9% in Sindh and less that 0.5% in Balochistan.
The 1998-99 estimates indicate that participation rate of children in educational institutions at Primary Stage (by and large 5-9 year age group) is 77% and that at the Middle Stage (by and large 10-14 year age group) is 51%. This means 12.666 million children (4.587 million of primary school age, plus, 8.079 million of middle school age) are currently not enrolled in schools. In all therefore these...