Prevalence of Child Labour in Pakistan

National Child Labour Survey 1996 (CLS 1996)

The National Child Labour Survey conducted in 1996 by the Federal Bureau of Statistics (now Pakistan Bureau of Statistics), found 3.3 million out of the 40 million children (in the 5- 14 years age group) to be economically active on a full-time basis. Out of 3.3 million working children, 1.94 million children between the age of 5-14 were active in the Punjab, 0.3 million in Sindh, 1.06 million in North West Frontier Province (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) and 0.01 million in the Balochistan.

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Gilgit-Baltistan Child Labour 2018-19 (GBCLS 2018-19)

The Gilgit-Baltistan Child Labour Survey 2018-19 (GBCLS 2018-19) is the first ever child labour survey conducted in the GB region. The GBCLS 2018-19 reveals that 50,761 children in GB are engaged in child labour, accounting for 13.1% of those aged 5 to 17 years old, meaning roughly 1 in every 7 children is working.  The data reveals that many children work in hazardous conditions and are almost twice as likely to report mental health problems. The child labour incidence is slightly higher for boys (13.6%) compared to girls (12.5%) and increases with age. The highest child labour prevalence is in the age group 14–17 (23.7%), followed by children aged 10–13 years (16.4%) and children aged 5–9 years (4.2%).

The survey reveals that  district Diamer has the lowest rate of child labour at 5.8%, whereas Shigar has the highest number of children in child labour at 27.8%. Children in child labour mostly work as unpaid family workers (83.1%). Girls are more often unpaid family workers than boys (89.0% vs. 77.9 %) and work more often at home (23.7% vs. 19.4%). Children in child labour work mostly in agriculture, forestry, or fishing (76.2%), and are employed in elementary occupations (52.5%). Girls work more frequently in water supply (22.6%) compared to boys (6.0%). Furthermore, girls are more often found in elementary occupations (55.2% vs. 50.1%), whereas boys are more often found in service or as sales workers (4.1 per cent vs. 0.4 per cent).

The survey also highlights that almost 30% of children aged 5-17 in GB, do not attend school and around 14.8% of students are neither in school nor working. The percentage of girls that never attended school is almost twice as high as the percentage for boys (19.5% vs. 10.3%).These children are particularly vulnerable to becoming engaged in child labour.

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Punjab Child Labour Survey 2019-20 (PCLS 2019-20)

The Punjab Child Labor Survey (PCLS) 2019-2020, released in October 2022, is the second child labour survey conducted in Punjab after the National Child Labour Survey 1996. The results of the PCLS 2019-20 show that the prevalence of child labor among 5–14-year-olds is 13.4%, while the prevalence of child labor and adolescent hazardous work (CLAHW) among 5–17-year-olds is 16.9%. Nearly half of children engaged in child labor (47.8%), those aged 10-14, work in hazardous conditions, posing a significant risk to their health and well-being.

The survey shows a gender disparity in the prevalence of child labour, with child labour higher among boys than girls. Among children ages 5 to 14, 16.8% of boys are engaged in child labour, compared with 9.7% of girls. When considering a broader age range of 5 to 17, the gap remains evident with 21.8 percent of boys and 11.5 percent of girls involved in child labour. A significant percentage of child labourers with more girls work as unpaid family workers and (girls – 85.4%, boys – 78.8%) for aged 5-14. The survey reveals regional differences in child labor. In terms of children aged 5 to 14, Sahiwal Division records the highest prevalence at 24.7% , while Rawalpindi Division records the lowest at 6.1%. This disparity becomes even more apparent when the broader age group of 5 to 17 years is considered, with prevalence rates reaching 27.9% in Sahiwal and only 8% in Rawalpindi. At the district level, Pakpattan has the highest prevalence of child labour among 5 to 14 year olds at 35.5%, while Attock has the lowest prevalence rate at 5.1% . The gap widens even further among 5- to 17-year-olds, with Pakpattan having a prevalence of 39.2% and Attock a much lower 7.3% .

The survey identifies predominant occupations and industries in which children are engaged in child labour in Punjab. In terms of occupations, it shows that among children aged 5 to 14 engaged in child labour, the most common occupations are skilled agriculture, forestry, or fishing, which account for 44.6% of cases, followed closely by elementary occupations at 36.7%. For those aged 5 to 17, the percentage is 40% for skilled agriculture, forestry, or fishing and 32.8% for elementary occupations. In terms of industries, agriculture, forestry, and fishing is the most common for child labour, with a prevalence rate of 61.5% for children aged 5 to 14 and 55.3% for children aged 5 to 17. This is closely followed by water supply, with 15.5% among those aged 5 to 14 and 11.8% among those aged 5 to 17, and manufacturing, with 9.5% among the former and 13.6% among the latter.

A comparison of child labour data between the CLS, 1996 and the PCLS 2019-20 shows that the number of children involved in labour in the 5-14 age group in Punjab has increased from 8.2% (1,943,305) in 1996 to 13.4% (3,835,956) based on the estimated population. 

More information about the PCLS 2019-20 > Click here

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Child Labour Survey 2022 (KPCLS 2022)

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Labour Survey (KPCLS), released by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in January 2024, provides insights into child labour trends based on data collected in 2022. This is the second child labour survey conducted in KP

The survey reveals 9% of all children aged 5-17 in KP are in child labour, amounting to 745,440 children within this age group. 11.1% of children in KP are engaged in work. 80.9% of them are classified as child labourers, while 73.8% of them work in hazardous occupations, indicating that the majority of children engaged in child labour are also engaged in hazardous work.  Of them, 9.4% are working with hazardous tools, 15% are working in hazardous industries and occupations, 57.2% are working hazardous hours, 28.5% doing night work and 16.2% are facing abuse.

The prevalence of child labour is higher among boys (11.7%) compared to girls (5.9%), with rates increasing with age for both genders. The most common occupations for children in child labour are elementary occupations (61.6%) and skilled agriculture, forestry, or fishing occupations (16.5%).  In terms of prevalence division-wise, the highest incidence of child labour is reported in Bannu at 11.4%, while the lowest is observed in Dera Ismail Khan at 3.7%.

A comparison of child labour data from the CLS 1996 and KPCLS 2022 shows that child labour in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has decreased, unlike in Punjab province.

More information about the KPCLS 2022 > Click here

Child Labour Surveys are presently being conducted in Sindh, Balochistan, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

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