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Government Survey Exposes Disturbing 11.1% Workforce Among Children in KP

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The recently conducted Child Labour Survey 2022-23 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has shed light on a critical issue plaguing the province. The survey findings, unveiled during a special ceremony in Peshawar, revealed that hundreds of thousands of children in the province are trapped in the clutches of child labor.

According to the survey, a staggering 922,314 children, accounting for 11.1% of the child population in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, are engaged in laborious activities. The event witnessed the presence of government representatives, UN agencies, donor organizations, academia, and civil society members, highlighting the significance of addressing this pressing concern.

The survey emphasized that these working children are economically active, but their involvement in child labor poses significant risks to their mental, physical, social, and moral well-being, greatly hindering their access to education.

This landmark survey, the second of its kind in the country after Punjab, was conducted by the labor department across the province, including the newly-merged tribal districts. It revealed that the province is home to approximately 8.2 million residents aged between 5 and 17 years.

Shockingly, the survey found that 80.9% of the working children were engaged in hazardous forms of labor, while the remaining 177,159 children did not fall under the category of child laborers.

The report highlighted distressing statistics, indicating that 73.8% of child laborers, amounting to 465,853 children, were subjected to hazardous conditions. Among them, 69,446 were working with dangerous tools, 111,631 were engaged in hazardous industries and occupations, 426,446 were working excessive hours, 206,539 were working during nighttime, and 119,267 children faced abuse.

To compile this comprehensive survey, data was collected from 49,734 households, including 5,976 in urban areas and 43,758 in rural regions. Despite facing harsh weather conditions and security challenges, especially in the merged districts, the response rate was an impressive 92.5%.

The report also shed light on the major industries employing child labor, highlighting agriculture, forestry, and fishing (51.6%), water collection (19.1%), wholesale and retail trade (9.7%), and manufacturing (7.7%) as the top sectors.

Child labor, the report emphasized, has a multitude of causes, including heads of households with little or no education (44.7%), households in severe poverty (31.8%), beneficiaries of BISP’s assistance (26.3%), migrating heads of households (14.6%), and households that have lost at least one parent (6.6%).

The report stressed that child labor has long been a significant issue with detrimental consequences for children’s development and well-being. It stands as a formidable challenge for the government and other stakeholders to confront.

Adviser to the Chief Minister on Labor, Riaz Anwar Khan, underscored the importance of taking the survey findings seriously. He urged policymakers and stakeholders to utilize this evidence to drive policy reforms and design programs aimed at eradicating child labor.

Mohammad Fakhre Alam, the Secretary of Labor, expressed that the survey marked the beginning of a long-term commitment by the government and labor department. He emphasized the need to utilize this understanding of child labor to shape policies and programs, ensuring children can live decent lives with equitable opportunities for education and development. He called for collaborative efforts from all stakeholders and partners to realize this vision.

Jo Moir, Development Director at the British High Commission in Islamabad, emphasized that child labor is a global issue, but its significance is particularly pronounced in Pakistan. She revealed that approximately 35% of reported child abuse cases in the country occur in the workplace. Moir highlighted the complex drivers of child labor, including poverty and social behavior, which deprive children of their right to education and health. She stressed the necessity of providing parents and families with better opportunities to secure a brighter future for their children.

Abdullah Fadil, a representative of UNICEF Pakistan, called on civil society and academia to utilize the survey’s findings to foster social discourse and bring about positive behavioral changes aimed at eradicating child labor. He urged the government and other stakeholders to take proactive steps to improve the living conditions of these children and promise them a better future.

Acknowledgement: Originally published by Dawn on 26-01-2024

To check the findings of the KP Child Labour Survey 2022, click here

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