Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Pakistan

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Pakistan, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 10-14 years, 1999-2000:13,550,151
Working children, 10-14 years (%), 1999-2000:16.4
Working boys, 10-14 years (%), 1999-2000:15.8
Working girls, 10-14 years (%), 1999-2000:17.2
Working children by sector, 10-14 years (%), 1999-2000:
     – Agriculture78.1
     – Manufacturing7.1
     – Services13.4
     – Other1.4
Minimum age for work:14 in specified hazardous occupations
Compulsory education age:Varies by province
Free public education:No
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:92.0
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:65.6
School attendance, children 10-14 years (%), 1999-2000:64.9
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:69.7
ILO Convention 138:7/6/2006
ILO Convention 182:10/11/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Pakistan work in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transport, and domestic service. Children of Afghan refugees, who live along the borders of Pakistan, are especially susceptible to hazardous child labor.

Many of the activities in which children are employed are hazardous, including rag picking, leather tanning, coal mining, deep-sea fishing, brick making, carpet weaving, and manufacturing surgical instruments and glass bangles. Children working in the glass bangle sector are exposed to high temperatures, unstable material, fumes, and sharp objects. Children working in the tannery sector are exposed to toxic chemicals, and those working in the brick sector lift heavy loads. Children working in carpet-weaving suffer eye and lung diseases due to unsafe working conditions. Child miners, child domestics, and other working children who are far from their families are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Bonded child labor reportedly exists in the coal, brick, and carpet industries. Some children working in mining, domestic service, and agriculture are from families who are bonded or indebted to their employers. Commercial sexual exploitation of children continues to be a problem. Children are trafficked within Pakistan for the purposes of sexual exploitation and bonded labor. Girls are trafficked internationally for forced labor.

There are reports of children being kidnapped, maimed, and forced to work as beggars. There also reports of children under the minimum voluntary recruitment age of 17 years being involved in armed conflict.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

In Pakistan, children of any age may be employed, provided that employers adhere to restrictions. It is illegal to employ children under 14 years in mines or other hazardous occupations or processes. Among the 4 occupations and 34 processes considered illegal for children to work are mixing and manufacturing pesticides and insecticides; fumigation; working at railway stations or ports; carpet weaving; construction; and manufacturing of cement, explosives, and other products that involve the use of toxic substances. Children may work in non-hazardous occupations, provided they do not work more than 7 hours per day (with a mandated 1-hour rest every 3 hours), do not work between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m., and do not work overtime.

Various restrictions apply to the work of children, 14 years and above, in these hazardous occupations. Children 14 years and older may work in mines as long as they have a certificate of fitness and are allowed 12 consecutive hours of rest per day, at least 7 of which must be between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Employers are required by law to maintain minimum standards of health and safety in a child's working environment. Children working for their families or in public schools are exempt from these provisions. Violations can result in a fine, a 1-year prison term, or up to a 2-year prison term for repeat violations.

Not all factory work is considered hazardous, and the Factories Act permits children 15 to 17 years to work in factories up to 5 hours per day, provided they do not work between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. and have been granted a certificate of fitness. Children may work in shops and establishments for no more than 7 hours per day (with a 1 hour break after 3.5 hours of work) and for no more than 42 hours per week. Further, they may work only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Bonded labor is prohibited by law; employers found in violation face 2 to 5 years of imprisonment or a fine. The Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking and Smuggling Ordinance prohibits trafficking of children internationally for exploitive activities and carries a prison term of 7 to 14 years and a fine. The Penal Code prohibits importing, exporting, trafficking, or dealing in slaves; noncompliance is punishable by life imprisonment.

The purchase or sale of a person for the purpose of prostitution or any unlawful and immoral purpose is punishable by imprisonment for life and a fine. The procurement of a minor for prostitution is punishable by a prison term of up to 3 years. Parents or guardians who cause or encourage the prostitution of a girl under 16 years are subject to imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine; males who commit this crime may also be liable to whipping. The punishments for importing or keeping a girl for prostitution are a fine and prison term of up to 3 years; males who commit this crime may be punished with whipping in lieu of or in addition to imprisonment. The law does not specifically prohibit child pornography but outlaws the circulation of any obscene material, with violations subject to fines or up to 6 months of imprisonment.

Pakistan does not have military conscription, and the minimum voluntary recruitment age is 17 years.

Child labor and forced labor laws are enforced by provincial governments through the labor inspection system. USDOS reports that enforcement of these laws is weak due to the lack of inspectors assigned to child labor, lack of training and resources, corruption, and the exclusion of many small workplaces and informal family businesses from the inspectorate's jurisdiction. While authorities cite employers for child labor violations, the penalties imposed are generally too minor to act as a deterrent. The Government's National Labor Inspection Policy encourages the involvement of private sector monitoring groups in labor inspection, such as the Independent Monitoring Association for Child Labor, which monitors child labor in the sporting goods industry.

The Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is the lead agency responsible for enforcing trafficking-related laws. The provincial governments are responsible for internal anti-trafficking efforts. The Government of Pakistan and NGOs have stated that local law enforcement of anti-trafficking efforts is hampered by lack of funding, training, and awareness, as well as corruption. Statistics on the numbers of trafficking-related arrests are limited due to the fact that trafficking victims are not differentiated from victims of other crimes.

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In 2008, the Government of Pakistan's National Action Plan for Children was adopted. This plan aims to harmonize Government and donor child labor programs to eliminate child labor and expand anti-trafficking efforts to include the protection of children.

Since 2000, the national and provincial-level governments have been implementing a National Policy and Action Plan to Combat Child Labor (NPPA) that calls for immediate eradication of the worst forms of child labor, progressive elimination of child labor from all sectors, educational alternatives to keep children out of work, and rehabilitation of children withdrawn from work. The Government's current Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper reiterates the Government's commitment to the NPPA and incorporates the reduction of child labor into its target-setting process. The Government's Poverty Alleviation Strategy provides preferential access to micro-credit loans for the families of working children. The National Commission for Child Welfare and Development oversees the National Project on Rehabilitation of Child Labor, implemented by Pakistan Bait-Ul-Mal, an autonomous body established by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education. The project withdraws children 5 to14 years old from hazardous labor in the brick, carpet, mining, tannery, construction, glass bangle, and agricultural sectors, as well as from domestic service and begging. The project also provides them with non-formal education, and clothing, and gives stipends to the children and their families.

FIA cooperates with other governments on trafficking cases, operates a hotline for victims, and publishes information on anti-trafficking efforts on its website. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs works on diplomatic missions to rescue, protect, and repatriate Pakistani trafficking victims. The Government operates 276 shelters that provide legal assistance, vocational training, and medical care to Pakistani trafficking victims, including children.

The provincial Punjab Government has established Child Protection Bureaus in five districts to protect and rehabilitate street children, in particular beggars, and has budgeted USD 1.8 million for these programs.

The Government of Pakistan participates in a number of projects to address child labor implemented by international organizations and NGOs. USDOL funded a 5-year USD 4 million ILO-IPEC Timebound Program that ended in September 2008 and withdrew 10,217 children and prevented 1,834 children from work in the glass bangle, surgical instrument, tanning, coal mining, scavenging, and deep-sea fishing industries. The Government is participating in an ILO-IPEC implemented 4-year USD 1.5 million USDOL-funded project to provide education and training programs for children in Balakot, North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) left vulnerable to hazardous child labor by the earthquake of October 8, 2005. The project targets 500 children for withdrawal and 2,000 children for prevention from hazardous work. Save the Children-UK is implementing a 5-year USDOL-funded USD 4 million project that aims to withdraw 7,300 children and prevent 8,420 children from hazardous work in the provinces of Balochistan, NWFP, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

In May 2008, the Government of Denmark funded a USD 1 million Phase II project that ends in December 2009. With the support of the Government of Norway, the Government of Pakistan is participating in a USD 1.2 million ILOIPEC project to engage the media in combating the worst forms of child labor, ending in July 2009.

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is supporting the Government through a USD 700,000 ILO-IPEC project targeting children in the soccer ball industry in Sialkot, ending in August 2009. The Government of Germany is funding a USD 600,000 ILO-IPEC project to support country programs in Pakistan until December 2009. The Government of Pakistan will continue to participate in the Pakistan Carpet Manufacturers' and Exporters' Association-supported USD 900,000 ILO-IPEC project to combat child labor in the carpet industry until September 2009. The Government of Switzerland is supporting a USD 3.6 million ILO-IPEC project to combat child labor in the country through education and training until December 2009.

The Government is participating in a 5-year USD 1.3 million program (2008-2013), funded by the EU and implemented by ILO-IPEC, to combat abusive child labor. The Government is participating in a USD 1.4 million regional ILO-IPEC project, funded by the Government of Italy, to prevent and eliminate child labor in South Asia until March 2009.

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