Child Labour and Fairtrade in Pakistan

Pakistan is a very important country in South Asia. The population is believed to be around 190 million where 12 million children are reported to work in agriculture, garage work, hotels, the carpet industry, the bangle-making industry, cement, deep sea fishing etc. UNICEF estimates that 250,000 children work in brick kilns. Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) 2012 report reveals that almost 25 million children and adolescents are out of school in Pakistan and further adds that around 7.3 million children of primary school age do not attend any school, the second largest out of school population in the world.

Pakistan seems to be very much confused in presenting a standard definition of a child and the child labour, creating loads of loopholes to exploit children.

The Constitution of Pakistan 1973 does not explain well the definition of the child; however, articles 11 and 25A are interpreted as child provision. Article 11 says that “no child below the age of fourteen years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment”. Article 25A in the meantime says that “the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years”. It means that the law considers the age between 14-16 years as a child, however Pakistan Employment of Children Act 1991 on the other hand says something opposite of article 25A that a “child” means a person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age and “adolescent” means a person who has completed his fourteenth but has not completed his eighteenth year. So here, nobody knows, what does adolescent mean? Does it really come into the category of a child? Or it is something above the age of a child, very confusing.

Now here is the funny bit. The constitution of Pakistan 1973 doesn’t allow children to get involved in hazardous employment below the age of 14 years. That’s okay. Fine. It looks fantastic on the paper but unfortunately on the ground 12 million children are believed to be working actively in Pakistan. Around 3.8 million of them are from the age of 5 to 14 years and 9.86 million are between the ages of 10 and 19 years.  Almost 2.7 million children work in the agricultural sector and 2.4 million are said to be boys. Around 2.2 million children are only in Karachi and 0.2 million are employed in manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail trade where conditions are harsh and hazardous.

Up to 500 child mine workers were found in Loralai district, Balochistan, some of them as young as eight years old, said by an official of International Labour Organisation (ILO). More than 10,000 children work as labourers in Quetta of which 60 per cent are garbage pickers. SEHR conducted a three-month-long signature campaign in Balochistan and revealed that those 47 per cent children of school going age do not have access to education in Balochistan and a million children have never attended school.

As many as 1.5 million children are currently involved in child labour in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 60,000 of them are below the age of 10 years while the province unfortunately doesn’t have a law to stop or convict all those who abuse children.

After the 18th Amendment Bill in April 2010, child labour has now become a provincial subject. Except Punjab unfortunately other three provinces Sindh, Khayber Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan don’t have any law against the child labour since 2010, which means hundreds of thousands of children are denied of their basic human rights under the charter of United Nations.

Sialkot City is located in the north-east of the Punjab province in Pakistan. It is known as capital of football production in the world. Around 75 million hand-stitched footballs are produced annually by some 80,000 skilled male and female workforces of Sailkot. 66 manufacturers, representing 95% of the total production of footballs in Sialkot.

It is the largest exporter of footballs to Germany and its leading manufacturers have collaboration with the well-know sports brands like Adidas, Puma (Germany), Nike (USA), Dita, Slazenger (UK) and Mikasa (Japan).

Sialkot will likely supply the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil like it did in 1982 and 1994 World Cups. Depending on the model, employers get paid between 55 and 63 Pakistani rupees per football equalling to $0.65 to $0.75, €0.48 to €0.55 while the company sells the balls to international sports companies between €5 and €20 per ball. An employee manages five to six balls in a day after eight hours work and Children can manage only two balls a day and earn around US$0.14 pence per day.  Surely there must be another way?

The Fair Corp is the first company, which deals with the Talon Sports based in Sialkot, the first Fair-trade football supplier in Pakistan, runs football stitching centre for women. Stitching wages are low. However, only Fair Trade buyers pay enough to enable the families with all the basic necessities.

Sameena Nyaz is 18 years old, single, lives in a village called Chagelen near Sialkot. She has seven sisters and four brothers. Her family lives in a small hut. While working with Talon Sports, Sameena had to have a thyroid operation. All costs were paid for by the Fair Trade Welfare Society. The health care scheme made possible by the Fairtrade premium that is paid on every Fairtrade ball that is made.

Imran Khan uses “The Vision pick up and drop off bus” purchased with Fairtrade premium money – saving him up to Rs 1000 per month. During an eye camp organised by Vision’s Fairtrade committee, his youngest sister Nadia’s eye infection was diagnosed and free medicine was provided. Ten year old Nadia goes to school in the 3rd grade. Vision got her free school bag which contained 32 notebooks, 48 pencils, erasers and sharpeners, with a total value of Rs 750.

Kadir’s mother stitches Fairtrade footballs. She took out Rs 180,000 micro credit loan so that his son, Kadir could start his own welding business. To pay off his micro credit loan, Kadir pays Rs 30,000 a month but still manages to bring home Rs 15,000 so that his mother can retire from stitching Fairtrade footballs.

Seven year old Amna lives with her parents and siblings in a one room hut in Chak Gillan Village, Pakistan. Her father Ayub Khan, 49 years old works with the ETHLETIC factory. He has three children. School books cost about Rs 500 per year for each child, and notebooks Rs 100 per month per pupil.

Through sourcing partners Fairtrade pay a 15% premium on the cost of shoes to Talon Fair Trade Welfare Society to enhance the education system for families such as the Khans.

Your little help make a great deal of difference in the lives of the poor labourers especially school going children. Fair Trade makes sure your help go to the deserving people and commit to bring changes in the lives of thousands of labourers especially children in developing countries.