50.33m labourers exploited in country
By Amar Guriro
KARACHI: The recent price hike, inflation and rising economical crises have badly affected labourers in Pakistan and due to these crises, parents have also been forced to send their children to work.
On May Day, which was celebrated in Pakistan and the rest of the world on Friday, Daily Times found that the period from June 2008 to April 2009 has been turbulent for the 50.33 million labourers in the country.
Though in this period, the country observed a dictator’s departure and the coming into power of an elected democratic government, the sufferings of the laborers have not decreased. The worsening security in tribal areas, inflation and the massive laying off of workers has doubled the problems for labourers and the situation has forced the working class to fall deeper into the pit of poverty. “The situation is alarming for workers and laborers in Pakistan,” said Zulfiqar Shah, a young researcher of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), adding that the trend to force children to work has risen at an alarming rate because the incomes of their parents are too low to support the family. Shah said that the average monthly salary of a worker is less than Rs 6,000 and he or she has to feed an average of seven members of a household, thus, the recent inflation and price hike has left parents with no other option but to send their children to work.
“The trend is badly affecting education in the country; official figures reveal that around 35 percent of the population aged 10 years and above has not even passed matriculation and with the prices of basic food commodities rising sky-high, it is a small wonder that the education of a child has become a secondary matter,” he added.
Beside child labour, laborers suffer from a lack of social security. Official data reveals that only 6.62 million people out of the total labour force of over 50 million in Pakistan benefits from any form of social protection including social insurance, pensions and survivors’ benefits. There is no scheme that specifically covers the workers in the informal sector, may they be home-based workers, workers in small unregistered factories or sub-contracted workers of large-scale manufacturing units.
The officials figures state that out of the 6.62 million labourers that are being provided with formal social protection, 2.8 million are covered by the Employees Old Age Benefits Institutions (EOBI) operating at the federal level and the Employees Social Security Institutions (ESSI) operating at the provincial level. The coverage, nevertheless, is only for the private formal sector. The main social insurance schemes, EOBI, and PESSI, together, cover less than three percent of the total employed workforce in Pakistan as only a small number of establishments with five or more workers are registered in these schemes.
Female workers in the country suffer more when compared to male labourers. Quoting official data, Shah said that two thirds of the employed women in Pakistan are in the informal sector and within the informal sector, female employment is highest in the manufacturing sector. In a study conducted across cities and in the garments, pharmaceutical, food, and plastic goods manufacturing sectors, the overall wages in the informal sector were about 25 percent less than those paid in the formal sector. Around 70 percent of the women in the informal sector were getting less than the official minimum wage.
“Beside these problems, one of the worst kinds of labour violation that exists in Pakistan is ‘bonded’ or forced labour; a majority of Pakistan’s bonded labourers belong to religious or lower caste minorities and these workers are mostly in the agriculture sector while brick kiln, mining and carpet-making are those industries where more than 18 million workers are in debt bondage,” Shah added.
demanded that the democratic government, on May Day, 2009, look seriously
into the issues of workers who make up the majority of the population,
and ensure that all citizens enjoy the right to a dignified life.
Daily Times Karachi, Saturday, May 02, 2009