What is Child Domestic Labour?
Child Domestic Labour or Child Domestic Work is when children are required to do domestic work in the household of a third party or employer. All over the world, millions of children are engaged in this work, performing tasks such as cleaning, washing, cooking and other household chores. In addition, they may be responsible for looking after children, tending gardens, running errands and other tasks.
Child domestic labour is a widespread form of child labour in Pakistan and is particularly worrying due to its hidden nature. This form of labour goes unnoticed as each child is employed individually and performs their tasks within the confines of private households. The lack of visibility greatly increases the risk of violence, exploitation and abuse towards the children employed.
Types of Child Domestic Labour
Child domestic labour normally falls in four types of categories.
Part-time Child Domestic Labour
Children in this category are employed to do a specific job or set of tasks for a limited period of time, usually 2-3 hours per day. After completing their work, they leave the employer’s home and go to other households to do similar work. The work may involve housework, running errands such as cleaning, washing disches, laundry etc.
Full-day Child Domestic Labour
In this type of child labour, children are employed for a whole day but are allowed to go home in the evening. The work may include a range of household chores such as cleaning, cooking and looking after children.
Live-in Child Domestic Labour
Children who fall under this category live with their employer’s family and are usually employed 24 hours a day. They have to do all the tasks their employer asks them to do, and they also have to work odd hours. Often there is no concept of working hours.
Child Domestic Labour through Parental Employment
In this form of child labour, children are not directly employed by the employer but have to do domestic work because their parents are employed in the household. These children may have to help their parents with housework or take care of younger children.
It is important to consider the different types of child domestic labour because the duration and conditions of employment can have a significant impact on the child’s well-being. For instance, children who are employed as part-time domestic workers may be exposed to different households in a single day, which could increase their chances of encountering abusive or exploitative employers. Even if some of the employers are good, there is no guarantee that all of them will treat the child fairly or provide a safe working environment.
On the other hand, children who are employed as full-day or live-in domestic workers are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation due to the prolonged exposure to their employers. The longer a child works at an employer’s house, the higher the risk of encountering various forms of abuse, such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. In addition, the lack of parental supervision and the isolated living conditions can further exacerbate the child’s vulnerability.
Impact of the Employment of Children in Domestic Work on the Lives of Children and Their Well-Being
Child domestic labour can have numerous negative impacts on the lives and well-being of children. Here are some examples:
Children who work as domestic workers often have to perform physically demanding tasks such as carrying heavy loads, cleaning and cooking. This can result in injuries, chronic pain and long-term health problems.
Child domestic workers may experience various forms of abuse, such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. This can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological problems.
Children who work in domestic labour are often unable to attend school regularly, which can limit their opportunities for personal development and future success. This can also result in a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills, which can make it difficult for them to find other forms of employment in the future.
Child domestic workers may be isolated from their peers and unable to participate in social activities due to their work responsibilities. This can lead to a lack of social skills and a limited understanding of the wider world.
Child domestic workers are often paid low wages, if at all, and are subjected to long working hours, poor working conditions, and abuse. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and exploitation, resulting in a cycle of poverty and dependence on employers.
Discrimination and Neglect
Discrimination and feelings of neglect are common experiences for child domestic workers. Child domestic workers may feel left out and excluded from activities that other children in the household are participating in, such as attending school, watching TV or playing with family and friends. They are subject to discriminatory treatment, such as being given inferior food or sleeping arrangements compared to other children in the household. These experiences can have a lasting impact on the child’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Discrimination and feelings of neglect can lead to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and a sense of hopelessness.
Contributing Factors for Employing a Child Domestic Labour in Pakistan
Child domestic labour in Pakistan is mainly influenced by two factors – demand and supply(1). Demand factors include a variety of factors such as increasing social and economic disparities, debt bondage, payment below the minimum wage, cultural practices and acceptability. In Pakistan, there is also a general perception that children working in households are usually cared for and notnecessarily seen as exploitative employment for children.
On the other hand, supply-side factors contribute to child domestic labour in Pakistan, such as poverty, social exclusion, lack of awareness, limited knowledge and education of parents who may not prioritise their children’s education, gender and ethnic discrimination, lack of family planning, rural-urban migration and broken families. These factors can lead families to have their children work as domestic workers. For example, children in rural areas where education is unaccessible or unaffordable are more likely to work as domestic workers.
In addition, the lack of institutional arrangements and mechanisms to monitor working conditions and wages, the weak role of trade unions in protecting the rights of domestic workers and the lack of social protection increase the vulnerability of domestic workers, especially children. It is therefore crucial to address both demand and supply side factors to eliminate child domestic labour in Pakistan.
International Legal Framework
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not specifically address child labour, but prohibits slavery and servitude and provides right to protection from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation. Child domestic labourers usually spend their lives in slavery-like practises, in violation of Article 4, and are subjected to brutal, cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment, in violation of Article 5. Child domestic labourers are discriminated against at work. In most cases, they are denied the right to rest, leisure, limitation of working hours or leave, in violation of Articles 23 and 24.
Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC)
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an international treaty that sets out the basic human rights that all children should enjoy. It covers a wide range of issues affecting children’s well-being, including child labour. Pakistan is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It ratified the Convention on 12 November 1990.
Article 32 of CRC emphasises that Parties must protect children from economic exploitation and from work that may be hazardous to the child’s health, physical or mental development. The same article emphasises that any work that interferes with a child’s education should not be permitted. It states that the state should set a minimum age for allowing children to work, certain working hours and conditions, and appropriate penalties and other sanctions for effective enforcement.
Other relevant provisions include Article 3, which defines the best interests of the child; Article 6, which ensures the survival and development of children; Article 18, which identifies parents as key responsible for bringing up a child and governments should help them; Article 19, which declares the right to protection from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse; Article 20, which describes the child’s family environment; Article 26, which provides the right to benefit from social security; Article 27, which declares an adequate standard of living; Article 28, which provides for free primary education; Article 31, which establishes the right of children to leisure and play; Article 35, which provides prevention and trafficking of children; Article 36, which provides protection from all other kinds of exploitation (being taken advantage of) even if these are not covered in CRC; and Article 37, which prohibits corporal punishment.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international treaty, adopted by UN in 1996, sets out the civil and political rights of individuals, including children. Pakistan signed the ICCPR in 2008 and ratified it in 2010.
While the ICCPR does not specifically mention child domestic labour, it does contain provisions that can be used to protect children from this practice. Article 8 of the ICCPR states that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude and that slavery and the slave trade in any form shall be prohibited. This provision can be applied to children’s domestic work as it prohibits any form of forced labour or exploitation, including children’s work in households.
In addition, Article 24 of the ICCPR recognises the rights of the child and requires States to recognise the inherent right of every child to such measures of protection as may be required by reason of his or her status as a minor on the part of his or her family, society and the State. This provision can also be used to protect children from harmful and exploitative practices such as child domestic labour.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is an international treaty that aims to protect and promote economic, social, and cultural rights. ICESCR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and entered into force on January 3, 1976. Pakistan signed the ICESCR in 2004 and ratified it in 2008.
Although the ICESCR does not specifically mention child domestic labour, it contains provisions that can be used to protect children from this practice. Article 10 of the ICESCR recognises the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society and emphasises the importance of protecting the family, especially the child, by ensuring adequate support and assistance to parents and guardians. This can be applied to child domestic labour, as it emphasises the importance of protecting the wellbeing and development of children within the family unit. In addition, Article 7 of the ICESCR recognises the right of everyone to just and favourable conditions of work, including safe and healthy working conditions, fair wages and the prohibition of child labour. This provision can also be applied to child domestic labour, as it prohibits all forms of child labour, including work in households.
Furthermore, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICESCR), has explicitly stated that child domestic labour can constitute a violation of children’s rights under the Covenant. The Committee has called on States to take measures to eliminate child domestic labour and to ensure that children are protected from exploitation and abuse in the workplace.
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) is an international human rights treaty that prohibits the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Pakistan ratified CAT on 23 June 2010.
Although CAT does not specifically address child domestic labour, Article 16 of CAT explicitly requires States to take measures to prevent and prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in any territory under their jurisdiction. This provision can be applied to child domestic labour, as it prohibits all forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including abusive and exploitative working conditions for children in households.
ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No.138)
The ILO Minimum Age Convention, also known as Convention No. 138, adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1973. The Convention aims to protect children from exploitation in the workplace by setting a minimum age for employment and establishing standards for the protection of young workers. Pakistan ratified this Convention on 06 July 2006.
Article 2(1) of the Convention states that each ratifying state shall specify the minimum age for admission to employment or work. Article 2(3) specifies the age of entry to work should not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling and in any case, shall not be less than 15 years. Article 2(4) gives relaxation of 1 year to countries with insufficient economic and educational developments and countries can specify an initial minimum age of 14 years. Article 3 sets 18 years as age if the work is like to jeopardise the health, safety, or morals of young persons.
ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)
The ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, also known as Convention No. 182, adopted by the International Labour Organization in 1999. The Convention aims to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. Pakistan ratified the this Convention on 11 October 2001.
Convention No. 182 defines the worst forms of child labour in Article 3 as follows:
(a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour,
including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
(b) the use, procuring, or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or pornographic performances;
(c) the use, procuring, or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;
(d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children.
This means that if any of the above mentioned conditions or situations exist, it will be considered as the worst form of child labour. The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) examines the compliance of ILO conventions ratified by state parties. The Committee noted that child domestic labourers were susceptible to becoming involved in the worst forms of child labour, as their work was difficult to monitor or regulate. The Committee requests the Government of Pakistan to strengthen its efforts to protect and withdraw child domestic workers from exploitative and hazardous work (Direct Request on the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention – adopted 2020, published at the 109th ILO Session 2021).
ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189)
The Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) sets out standards and guidelines for the protection of domestic workers, including those who are children. Article 3(1) of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) ensures the effective promotion and protection of the human rights of all domestic workers. Article 3(2)(c) speaks of the abolition of child labour in domestic settings. Article 4 (1) emphasises that countries must abide by the principles and provisions of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). Article 4(2) also emphasises that countries must take measures to ensure that the work of domestic workers who are under 18 years of age and above the minimum age of employment does not deprive them of their compulsory education or affect their opportunities to participate in further education or vocational training.
Pakistan has not ratified this convention.
ILO Convention on Forced Labour, 1930 (No.29)
The Convention on Forced Labour, 1930 (No. 29) addresses the issue of forced or compulsory labour. Pakistan ratified this Convention on 23 December 1957. The Convention defines forced or compulsory labour as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.” The Convention prohibits forced or compulsory labour in any form, including slavery, debt bondage and serfdom. It requires member states to take measures to prevent and eliminate forced or compulsory labour, to identify and protect victims, and to ensure that they have access to effective remedies and support services. The Convention also establishes several principles to protect workers from forced labour, including the right to choose one’s employment, the right to leave employment at any time, and the right to be protected from any form of coercion, intimidation or threat. The Convention is relevant because children are forced to do domestic work without their consent.
Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)
The Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1057 (No.105) also aims to eliminate all forms of forced or compulsory labour. This Convention primarily concerns forced labour imposed by state authorities and specifically prohibits the use of any form of forced or compulsory labour. Pakistan has ratified this Convention on 15 February 1960.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015 to achieve sustainable development by 2030. The SDGs cover a wide range of social, economic, and environmental issues. Goal 8 focuses specifically on promoting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. Within this goal, target 8.7 specifically addresses forced labour and modern slavery, stating:
“Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms.”
This target recognises the importance of eliminating forced labour and child labour, which constitute serious human rights violations and impede sustainable development. The target also recognises that immediate action is needed to address these issues and calls on governments, employers, workers and other stakeholders to work together to eliminate forced labour, modern slavery and child labour in all its forms.
Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is about promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Target 16.2 specifically aims to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.” This target recognises that children are particularly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, trafficking and violence, and that these are important human rights violations that must be addressed in order to achieve sustainable development.
Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+)
The Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) is the European Union’s strategy to promote sustainable development in developing countries by making it easier for developing countries to export their products to the European Union. It can be defined as an instrument to promote trade, sustainable development and the protection of labour rights. GSP+ status grants countries duty-free access to various goods to European Union countries. The European Union (EU) granted GSP+ status to Pakistan in January 2014. In September 2021, Pakistan’s GSP+ status, set to expire in 2022, was extended by the European Union, for two years with six new conventions introduced including child labour. All recipient countries, including Pakistan, will have to apply for renewal of GSP Plus status beyond December 2023.
National Legal Framework Dealing with Child Domestic Labour
Various laws have been enacted at both national and provincial government to combat child labour. As labour is a provincial subject, each province, along with the Islamabad Capital Territory, has enacted its own laws to regulate and prohibit child labour including child labour in domestic settings.
Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973
Article 3 of the Constitution of Pakistan,1973 ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle, from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.
Article 11 of the Constitution of Pakistan prohibits all forms of slavery, forced labour, human trafficking, employment of children younger than 14 years, and working of children in hazardous places.
Article 25 states that all citizens are entitled to equal protection of the law and empowers states to make special provisions to protect women and children.
Article 25-A provides that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of five to sixteen years.
Article 35 provides that the state shall protect the family and the child. Article 37(e) secures just and humane work conditions and ensures that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age or sex.
The Pakistan Penal Code of 1860 is a comprehensive code covering all major aspects of criminal law in Pakistan. In 2016, a new section, 328A, was added to the Pakistan Penal Code. It states that “Whoever willfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or does an act of omission or commission, that results in or has, potential to harm or injure the child by causing physical or psychological injury to him shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend up to three years, or with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five thousand rupees and may extend up to fifty thousand rupees, or with both.”
If someone employs a child as domestic labour and the child is subjected to any form of assault, ill-treatment, or neglect, then the employer would be held liable under this section of the law. In case of child domestic labour, if the employer is found guilty of assaulting or ill-treating the child, or if the employer is found to have caused physical or psychological harm to the child, then they may be punished with imprisonment for a term that shall not be less than one year and may extend up to three years, or with a fine that shall not be less than twenty-five thousand rupees and may extend up to fifty thousand rupees, or with both.
ICT/Provincial Labour Laws Dealing with Child Domestic Labour
There are two types of labour laws that prohibits the employment of children as domestic labour in Pakistan. They either concern the prohibition and regulation of the employment of children or the regulation of the working conditions of domestic workers(2).
Employment of children as domestic workers is not allowed in the Islamabad Capital Territory for children under 16 years of age. Previously, it was 14 years under the Employment of Children Act, 1991. In Balochistan, domestic work is not allowed for children below 18 years under Balochistan Employment of Children (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2021. In Punjab, domestic work is not allowed for children under 15 years of age, but light work is allowed for 15-18 year olds, considering it does not affect the health, safety and education of domestic workers.
Both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces are silent on the issue of child domestic labour. Both provinces define children as persons below 14 years of age and prohibit the employment of children below 14 years of age in “establishments” under the KP Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2015 and the Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2017 in the respective provinces. Both provinces have also enacted laws to regulate domestic work, but neither law prohibits the employment of children in domestic settings, as is the case in ICT and Punjab’s domestic work laws.
|Region/Province||Allowed Age||Reference of Law|
|Islamabad Capital Territory||16 years +||Section 3 – ICT Domestic Workers Act, 2022|
|Balochistan||18 years +||Section 3(2)- Balochistan Employment of Children (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2021|
|Punjab||15-18 years – Light Work||Section 3- Punjab Domestic Workers Act, 2019|
ICT/Provincial Child Protection Laws
Child Protection Laws in Pakistan All provinces and the ICT region have child protection laws in place to ensure that children have access to functioning child protection systems. With the exception of the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act, 2011, the other protection laws do not directly address child domestic labour, but provide protection to all children from abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation including child domestic labour, when they are vulnerable and in need of the care and protection provided by law, i.e. Khyber Paktunkhwa Child Protection and Welfare Act, 2010 (“child at risk”), Balochistan Child Protection Act, 2016 (“child abuse”, “child exploitation”, “neglect or negligent treatment”, “mental violence”, “maltreatment”), Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection Act, 2018 (“child abuse,” “child exploitation,” “maltreatment,” “mental violence,” “neglect”), Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act, 2004 (“destitute and neglected child”).
ICT/Provincial Education Laws
According to Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, all provinces including Islamabad Capital Territory, Punjab, KP, Sindh, and Balochistan have enacted laws to provide free and compulsory education to children from five years to sixteen years of age, such as The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2012 (ICT), The Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2014, The Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2013, The Balochistan Compulsory Education Act, 2014, and The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2014. However, these laws are not adequately enforced due to a lack of necessary enforcement notifications and rules. There are also various problems within the education system, such as insufficient budget, poor infrastructure, inadequate administration, poor quality of teachers, and inadequate policy implementation (NCRC, 2022). Strict enforcement of education laws could address the problem of children not enrolled in school, low enrolment and attendance rates, and ultimately reduce the incidence of child domestic labour in Pakistan.
ICT/Provincial Bonded Labour Laws in Pakistan
Laws abolishing bonded labour are somewhat applicable to child domestic labour in Pakistan (Qindeel Shujaat, 2023). The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act was enacted in 1992. It abolishes the bonded labour system in Pakistan and exempts all bonded labourers from any obligation to perform such labour. The Act provides for the formation of district-level vigilance committees comprising representatives of the government, social services, lawyers and journalists to monitor the implementation of the Act and assist in the rehabilitation of freed bonded labourers. After the 18th Constitutional Amendment, each province has enacted its own laws. Therefore, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992 is enforced in the ICT region while the provincial governments have enacted the following bonded labour laws:
- Punjab Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992 (Amendment Act, 2012)
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 2015
- Sindh Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 2015
- Abolition of Forced and Compulsory Labour in Balochistan Act, 2021.
Many children in Pakistan, especially those who work in domestic settings, are forced to work outside their homes, often with the consent of their parents. In some cases, they are sent to work for wealthier families to support their families. In these situations, children may be subjected to long hours of work, little or no pay or payment of a salary to their parents, physical and emotional abuse, and restricted movement. This type of child domestic labour can be considered bonded labour, as the child is forced to work and is not free to leave.
To protect children from domestic labour, existing laws and regulations need to be effectively enforced, while reviewing and amending laws to close loopholes. Child protection case management and referral mechanisms are needed to respond to such cases, tailored to the specificities of domestic work and its particular protection needs, as well as efforts to prevent such cases.
Legislative Bodies: Parliament and Provincial Assemblies
- There is a need to harmonise all federal and provincial laws relating to the definition of a child to define anyone under the age of 18 as a child, and provinces must raise the minimum age for admission to employment in line with the age for compulsory education as defined in Article 25(A).
- Article 11 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan should be amended to prohibit the employment of children (under 18 years of age) in factories, mines or hazardous occupations in accordance with Pakistan’s commitment to the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour No.182.
- The federal government should introduce the criminal law amendments in Pakistan Penal Code, to penalise child domestic labour as slavery-like practice; the offence should be cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
- The offence in PPC 328A dealing with cruelty to a child should be made cognizable.
- Light work needs to be defined in the context of child labour in domestic work. The details of domestic work and the hours of work that are or are not included in light work should be explicitly defined in laws or rules. The right of children between the ages of 16 and 18 to perform light work should be protected.
- Introduce laws and rules to recognise and regulate adult domestic workers as “real work” and amend domestic worker laws in Punjab, Sindh and KP to prohibit the employment of children as domestic workers. Law on regulating domestic worker should be enacted in Balochistan to protect domestic workers.
- Punjab government should immediately introduce the rules and framework under the Punjab Domestic Workers Act, 2019 and amend the law to raise the minimum age for light work from 15 to 16 years.
- Sindh Provincial government should immediately ban the child domestic labour in Sindh by amending the schedule of The Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2017, and The Sindh Home Based Workers Act, 2018 should be amended to prohibit employment of children.
- The issue of hazardous labour and child domestic labour as a hazardous occupation should be included in the list of prohibited occupations/ processes of the KP Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2015, and KP Home Based Workers (Welfare and Protection) Act, 2021 should be amended to prohibit employment of children.
- The Government of Balochistan should introduce the Rules for the Implementation of the Employment of Children in Balochistan (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2021.
- The Government of Pakistan should ratify the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), particularly in relation to child domestic labour.
Federal and Provincial Governments
- It is recommended that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ annual Labour Force Survey (LFS) should include child domestic labour in the child labour component as a regular feature, and cover the age group 5-17 years (currently it covers those over 10 years).
- Provincial governments must develop action plans to eradicate child labour, taking into account the findings of the child labour surveys and national and international commitments.
- There must be a ban on child domestic labour for public office holders, public representatives and political office holders. Admission to public places such as hotels, restaurants, wedding halls, parks, playgrounds, public transport and car parks should be banned for adults accompanied by child domestic labour, and these prohibitions should be publicly displayed.
- Children up to the age of sixteen should go to schools by strictly enforcing the laws on compulsory education and free education in ICT and the respective provinces in line with Article 25(A) of Pakistan’s Constitution. The government should focus on alternative learning opportunities for children out-of-schools.
- Effective cooperation and strong coordination must be developed between provincial governments and district administrations to prevent child domestic labour.
- Provincial governments and ICT must increase budgetary allocations to improve the education system and provide mechanisms to ensure student attendance in primary, middle and high schools and ensure that no child is absent from school. There is also a need to connect schools with training institutes such as TEVA and provide skills trainings.
- The establishment of a coherent and efficient vigilance system is required in ICT and in all provinces to identify children who are engaged in child labour in domestic, including the establishment of district-level vigilance committees.
- The federal and provincial governments must improve their child protection systems and ensure that services and support are available and accessible to children who have been physically, sexually or otherwise abused or exploited as domestic workers through well-coordinated child protection case management and referral systems. Child protection centres and child protection units should be established in all districts of Pakistan under federal and provincial child protection laws.
- A neighbourhood watch system should be introduced so that individuals can report cases of child domestic labour to the relevant authorities. A neighbourhood watch system should not replace the state monitoring system but complement it.
- A mandatory reporting system should be established and referral mechanisms should be put in place for immediate response with interdepartmental case management protocols.
- Training programmes should be conducted for law enforcement agencies, including labour department, police, social welfare, child protection agencies and commissions on child rights and child protection laws. Police and other law enforcement agencies should be trained to deal with the newly amended provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code 1860, internal child trafficking and its consequences.
- There is a need to develop a formal linkage of child labour/child domestic labour with social safety nets as a policy measure with a strategy to improve the existing Ehsaas, Bait-ul-Mal and other provincial social protection programmes, and expand the scope and scale of the programmes to reach children working in the informal sector and in the worst forms of child labour, including child domestic labourers and their families.
- Provincial departments should conduct in- depth research on the prevalence and impact of child domestic labour. A needs gap analysis could be conducted to assess the problems in implementing child labour laws in the respective regions.
- Complaint handling through the helpline 1121 administered by the Child Protection Authority/Commission and helpline 1099 administered by the Ministry of Human Rights should also be improved. It is recommended that all child protection helplines should be made toll-free (as in the rest of the South Asia region).
- Child Protection Officers should be trained for the recovery, rehabilitation and reunification of child victims of child domestic labour.
- The federal and provincial governments should include families of domestic workers with children or those living below the poverty line in social protection schemes.
- The federal and provincial governments should introduce programmes to upskill adult domestic workers, and include them in the social safety nets to reduce child labour in the province.
- The number of labour officers and the technical capacity of labour inspectors need to be enhanced to improve the effectiveness of monitoring and accountability mechanisms to address child domestic labour.
- Labour inspectors should be given more powers to carry out on-site inspections, without prior notice or information.
- The Labour Departments have implemented projects to curb child labour in various industrial sectors. They should also focus on and include child domestic labour in their projects.
- Government agencies can play an effective role in mobilising public opinion against child domestic labour and the ways in which child domestic labour robs children of childhood. The Chief Secretaries of the respective provinces, PTA, PEMRA etc. can help to bring the issue to the forefront without spending much money.
- Parenting is a neglected area that should be highlighted for both awareness and punishment in the context of trafficking, as in the recent Kamran murder case in Punjab. It is recommended that the human trafficking law be applied and parents be held accountable for neglect and exploitation.
Judicial bodies: District Judiciary and Higher Judiciary
- The higher courts should develop their rules for dealing with children and labour issues involving children. This will guide the subordinate courts, including trial courts, labour courts, magistrates and other judicial bodies.
- The superior judiciary should apply the notion of child protection when adjudicating children’s matters to ensure the best interests of the child, as provided for in international human rights law and standards, and ensure that children have prompt access to justice and redress.
- The judiciary should follow the guiding principle of child justice when interacting with children in contact or in conflict with the law.
- Strengthen the functioning of labour courts by training judges/presiding officers on international labour standards, national and provincial labour and industrial laws.
National and Provincial Human Rights Institutions
- NHRIs should closely monitor the implementation of international commitments to which the State is a party to ensure that the recommendations of the UN bodies are followed through the various periodic reviews.
- Establish effective and accessible grievance mechanisms, investigate complaints promptly and take appropriate action where warranted.
- In-depth research should be conducted at the federal and provincial levels on the impact of child labour in domestic work.
- Coordinate with Treaty Implementation Cells to obtain data/figures on CDL and status of government compliance with ratified treaties.
- NHRIs should recommend to the Government of Pakistan to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189).
- NHRIs should be strengthened to include jurisdiction over business entities with a broader scope and to take cognizance of complaints, as envisaged in the “Action Plan on Human Rights and Business”.NHRIs should recommend that all state institutions and officials observe the Universal Children’s Day on 20 November at the state level to highlight the problems of children and the plight of child abuse and exploitation.
Civil Society Organisations
- Information, education and behaviour change communication campaigns with the engagement of media personals and media houses should be carried out for the change in trends, practices and behaviours of stakeholders. Advocacy and awareness raising campaigns with policy makers, Department of Labour, Law Department, Home Department, Department of Social Welfare, Police, Department of Education, Child Protection authorities and commissions to advocate for the implementation of laws and policies.
- Conduct quantitative and qualitative research on child domestic labour to understand the prevalence and impact on children, families and society, and identify bottlenecks in the implementation of existing policies, programmes and interventions.
- Social media is a powerful tool with a wide reach in society. It should be used to raise awareness of the harm and impact on children’s lives. In addition, relevant laws and social protection measures should be publicised to inform the public about the policy and legal framework and the rights of children.
- Civil society organisations should develop a strong advocacy and lobbying strategy to address the issue of child domestic labour, explicitly outlining the roles and responsibilities of each organisation.
- Media campaigns highlighting child labour legislation by working with media influencers, celebrities and famous media spokespersons to promote the child rights agenda.
- (1) National Commission on the Rights of Child . (2022). Policy Brief on the Legal Framework on Child Domestic Labour in Pakistan.
- (2) Permitted age for employment of children as domestic workers – The State of Children in Pakistan. (2023, April 16). Permitted Age for Employment of Children as Domestic Workers – the State of Children in Pakistan. https://stateofchildren.com/child-domestic-workers-permitted-age-in-pakistan/