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Majority of Punjab’s brick kiln child-workers enrolled in schools

Majority of Punjab’s brick kiln child-workers enrolled in schools

Around 18,622 out of 23,000 children working in brick kilns in Punjab have been enrolled in schools

LAHORE – “Out of 23,000 working children in brick kilns in Pakistan, 18,622 have been successfully enrolled in schools for education” said Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, Minister for Labour and Manpower Punjab while addressing a high profile launch of Labour Inspection project. The Government of Punjab has completed a detailed survey of Brick Kilns in Punjab. There are 6,600 total brick kilns in Punjab and 23,000 children residing in these kilns.

Mr. Sarwar also said that “the plight of workers is one of the major thrusts of this government and to achieve higher standards of Occupational Health and Safety (OSH), the government considers strengthening of Labour Inspection system as a top priority”.

The event was organized to inaugurate a new three-year technical assistance project of ILO to support Federal and Provincial Governments, Employers and Workers’ organizations to ‘strengthen Labour Inspection System in Pakistan’ with financial support of Netherlands Government.  The Minister also announced to provide adequate resources to the labour inspection machinery for ensuring full and transparent labour inspection of all workplaces in the Province.   He thanked ILO and Government of Netherlands for technical support in all important matters and looking forward formore collaboration.

The event was attended by representatives from federal and provincial governments, and representatives of workers, employers, academia and the civil society. The project launch is being followed by a one and half day consultation among the relevant stakeholders concerned with labour inspection in Pakistan. The minister admired the efforts of International Labour Organization (ILO) for providing a platform to a wider range of stakeholders for laying out strategies that could strengthen the labour inspection system in Pakistan. The minister assured his government’s fullest support and also sought all the stakeholders to maximize their contribution towards this noble cause.

Ms. Atifa Raffat, Joint Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development (OPHRD) highlighted that Pakistan is signatory to 36 ILO conventions including all eight fundamental conventions. Pakistan ratified Labour Inspection Convention 1947 (No. 81) in 1953. Ratification of this convention obliges the government of Pakistan to put-in-place an effective labour inspection system in order to guarantee compliance with and report on International Labour Standards (ILS).

Also, Ms. Atifa Raffat informed the audience that the Federal Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (MOPHRD) in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Pakistan has embarked upon this three years project that aims at strengthening the a) regulatory framework, b) institutional capacities and c) extending the outreach and quality of the labour inspection system in Pakistan. The project is financially supported by the Government of Netherlands and will endeavor to support the provincial labour departments of all the four provinces, AJK and Gilgit Baltistan. The project will also contribute in addressing institutional challenges in centrally collating, analyzing and reporting data on labour inspection.

Mr. Zahoor Awan, General Secretary of Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF) emphasized that Labour inspection is one of the core functions of any system of labour administration. He also highlighted that in Pakistan, the capacity of the provincial labour departments in the context of post-devolution transition remains limited to ensure achievement of labour standards. At present, the apparatus of labour inspection within provincial labour departments as a main tool to ensure compliance to the International Labour Standards confronts mounting challenges pertaining to, among others, i) complex and fragmented regulatory framework , ii) human and financial resource deficit and iii) limited professional capacities to carry out labour inspection efficiently.

Mr. Khwaja Nauman, President Pakistan Employers’ Federation (PEF) iterated that Pakistan could also achieve exponential increase in its exports by compliance of international labour laws and standards. The abysmal compliance of International Labour Standards endure lesser acceptance of Pakistani products in international markets globally. Mr. Khwaja Nauman urged the need of a collective action of all the stakeholders to ensure compliance to the international labour standards and assured the fullest support of Pakistan Employers’ Federation in this regard.  The Project is a realistic and practical approach to address the challenges faced by Labour Inspection.  Employers and workers are the ultimate beneficiaries of better labour inspection in the country.  He identified that legal system comprise of outdated provisions which are not relevant in present day scenario and even if employers provide better provisions, they are vulnerable to be fined or penalized for not following outdated laws.

Speaking to the audience on this occasion, ILO’s Country Director in Pakistan Ms. Sherin Khan stated that the importance of labour inspection is recognized internationally. International standards in this area include the Labour Inspection Convention No. 81, and its Recommendation as well as the Labour Inspection (Agriculture). Ms. Khan maintained that labour inspection in Pakistan has gone through multiple transitions – from enforcement across the country to suspension in some provinces; and from centralization to devolution. These changes have been barring the effectiveness of labour inspection system thereby resulting in fatal industrial accidents. Ms. Sherin Khan maintained that the fatal industrial accident like the Factory Fire in Ali Enterprises Baldia Town Karachi, which killed more than 250 workers and recent collapse of a factory in Sundar Industrial Estate Lahore could only be prevented by having in-place an effective labour inspection system. Mr. Khan proposed that the effectiveness of labour inspection system in Pakistan could be improved by making up the human and financial resource deficit, institutionalizing user-friendly labour inspection tools and addressing the data management and training requirements.

Other stakeholders including representatives from Provinces of KP, Baluchistan and Sindh as well as Mines Department also talked and requested for the comprehensive approach towards Labour Inspection improvement.

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