In Pakistan, a country where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line, child labor is a highly disturbing phenomenon. It not only exists at the national level, but the provincial level where the population is high while the household income is low.
According to a survey by the Federal Bureau of Statistics 2002, approximately 3.5 million children belong to the working class in Pakistan. Unfortunately, child labor exists in a number of forms. According to our sources, almost 37% of the male child workforce is employed in urban retail and wholesale industry whereas their number in rural areas exceeds 68%, as of 2005-2006. The percent of female child labor doesn’t lag behind as the estimation also revealed that almost 48% of girls were employed in the service sector in urban areas as compared to the 82% of female working class in rural areas.
Moreover, despite the claim of reforms in the educational sector by provincial governments, the number of children out of school exceeds 23 million in Pakistan. This is an alarming situation that needs attention.
Poverty, as suggested by the International Labor Organization (ILO), is the main reason behind child labor in Pakistan. Poverty levels in Pakistan need to fall to allow families to live sustainable lives.
Though the government of Pakistan has designed policies and strategies to provide free elementary school education to the children, there is a need for proper implementation. The newly elected prime minister of Pakistan, however, is the glimmer of hope for the nation. In his recent speech to his fellow countrymen, he seemed motivated and committed to rid Pakistan of the menace of child labor. With this commitment of the prime minister, we can hope that working children in Pakistan will enjoy normal living in the future.