Photo by: Khalil Shah
Observations and studies indicate that the child labor is not much serious issue in the northern areas. It is due to the fact that there is lack of industries or other labor units in the area. Almost all the children below 14 do small works in homes in order to help their families but that is not considered as child labor. However there are children who do labor work in automobile shops, small hotels and other small work units in the Gilgit town and other areas.
Child labor in different districts
Since it has been noted that the child labor in the northern areas is very less and therefore it is even more difficult to have a data separately. However through a survey conducted in the Gilgit town we found some realities about the status of child labor in this region of Pakistan.
Following is a general observation about the concept and status of child labor in the five districts of the region.
In this district the case of child labor is a bit controversial. Most of the children of two dominated clans; sheen and yashkum people do not do any sort of labor work; the reason is obvious, most of the families of these two clans are financially stable as compared to other social groups. The children of gujurs tribe whose major profession is goat herding are involved in arduous works.
Like other districts of NAs in Skurdu as well the child labor is not a major issue. But there is a portion of children working in small hotels, shops, fields, and small working units in Skurdu town. Some of the children are also involved in grazing cattle.
In Ghanche the child labor exists in a small scale; the working children are involved especially in agriculture labor, cattle grazing and construction. A considerable number of children of this district also go to different small towns, especially in the winter season.
Gilgit is one of the major districts of the Northern Areas and the major town as well. In this town economic activities of the people are slightly different from other parts of the region. According to some sources out of the total-working children in the northern areas 70% are employed in Gilgit. It is important to know that majority of these children are not the local residents of the town; rather they come from the peripheries. The reason for this trend is obvious; in the remote parts of the region employment opportunities are scarce. Gilgit being the administrative and commercial center of the region offers employment opportunities for children as well as adults in commercial sector.
In the Ghizer district the rate of child labor is still lesser. Most of the working children are involved in agriculture sector, however children also work at shops, small hotels etc.
Salient features of child labor in northern areas
As per study and observations, some basic features of the child labor in the area revealed are as illustrated below:
1) Almost all the children suffered with the child labor are male children. The reason is in this part of the world there are cultural constraints for females to work outside home.
2) The problem of child labor is more concentrated in Gilgit town as compared to the side valleys of the region.
3) In terms of occupations, 80% of working children in the northern areas are mainly in elementary unskilled occupations in small hotels, automobile workshops, salesmen, agriculture, service stations (where vehicles are washed), construction, and transport.
4) Around 60% of all working children lack health, accommodation, Nutrition and education and other basic facilities of life.
5) Nearly all-working children suffer from drug abuse, especially smoking and in some cases use of liquor.
6) A considerable of the child laborers are suffering from the evil of sex abuse, especially at their workplace.
7) Children work 10 to 12 hrs daily and there is no off on Sundays and other public holidays.
8) The average wages and salary of the working children is 14 US $.
9) Child labor exists mostly in commercial sector where children work in automobile workshops, in small hotels, in shops etc.
10) At workplace children work for longer hours as compared to their adult counterparts.
11) The child labor is not forced labor rather it is due to poor economic conditions of certain families.
12) Although poverty is the principal cause of child labor, there are some other causes as well.
The research has been conducted by iEARN Austraila. iEARN Australia is a non-profit organization run by volunteer teachers. The Management Team is elected each year from among iEARN Australia members. You can reach them at http://www.iearn.org.au