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On Labor Day, Pakistan needs to rethink its labor laws

According to A.K. Panyhar, the conditions of labor in Pakistan are tragic as they face unsafe working environments, low wages, and a lack of rights. The government needs to efficiently implement labor laws.

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May 1 is celebrated as Labor Day all over the world in memory of the martyrs of Chicago; there was a general strike for the eight-hour workday. Peter J.McGuire, a carpenter and a labor union leader was the person who came up with the idea of Labor Day.

Pakistan also observes world labor day on May 1 every year to show solidarity with the workers according to the ILO labor convention. The set of four core labor standards are; freedom of association; freedom from forced labor; freedom from child labor; nondiscrimination in employment.

Read more: Child labor in Pakistan

It is very important that a conducive environment be provided to the workers at their workplaces, however in Pakistan labor laws are not being enforced and workers are facing health and sanitation issues at workplaces.

In Pakistan, no safety measures are taken at the workplace. There is nonavailability of safe drinking water, water tanks, fire extinguisher, and other safety measures are also not followed.

Read more: Pakistan’s water crisis: expensive and deadly

In Baldia factory Karachi, in 2012, more than 300 factory workers died due to the nonavailability of safety equipment and emergency exit gate.

So workers’ safety conditions in Pakistan are not in a good state according to the ILO convention on labor laws. Furthermore, there is an acute shortage of labor inspectors in Pakistan who can carry out daily inspections of factories and other workplaces.

Read more: Pakistan coal miners scared to work after Hazara killings

Pakistan’s predicament

Child labor happens due to several reasons. While some of the reasons may be common in some countries, there are some reasons which are specific to particular areas and regions. When we look at what is causing child labor, we will be able to fight it better.

Firstly, it happens in countries that have a lot of poverty and unemployment. When the families won’t have enough earning, they put the children of the family to work so they can have enough money to survive. Similarly, if the adults of the family are unemployed, the younger ones have to work in their place.

Read more: When will Pakistan take plight of child labourers seriously?

Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) possesses a huge budget and the same is being collected from factories, hotels, small SMEs, however, EOBI is unable to register the workers for their medical and pension benefits as factory owners do not provide the names of workers but only provide them figures of workers.

In this way, workers have not been registered with EOBI and are facing problems with their medical treatment and pension on their retirement. Now it becomes imperative that factory owners may provide detailed names along with a list of their workers to the EOBI that EOBI can register their names and workers can get the advantage of EOBI pension funds.

Read more: Pensions: A brewing disaster

Plight of fishermen

A most neglected segment of the society of Pakistan are fishermen; they live on the coastal belt of Pakistan. For a long time, they have not been registered with any department of Pakistan.

They don’t have school or medical facilities for their children. They are the least educated people in Pakistan. They cannot get any subsidy from the government for their business or for making storage facilities for their products’ value addition.

Read more: Pakistan arrests 56 Indian fishermen for trespassing

They cannot get any loans or grants for purchasing or repairing fishing boats; no labor law is enforced at the coastal belt communities of fisherman. They live in the same socio-economic condition as hundred years ago.

Now since the world is changing with digitalization, the government must register fishermen for providing them subsidies and loans for their children’s quality education and equipping their boats with new trends and technology to increase the livelihood of fishermen and to get the advantage of the blue economy.

Read more: Rethinking our oceans: Investing in The Blue Economy

What Pakistan needs to do

According to a world food program survey report, an average Pakistani household spends 50% of monthly income on food items, which makes it difficult to survive within 20 thousand in a month.

Therefore, there is a dire need to address the labor class income on a war footing pattern.

Read more: Poor and the rich in Pakistan are living ‘poles apart’: UNDP report

Moreover, child labor in Pakistan is increasing day by day. According to a world food program survey, 7 million Pakistani up to the age of primary level are out of school.

It is important that labor laws should be implemented on all fronts with a zealous spirit and an enabling environment should be provided to the labor at their workplaces.

A new green job should be created to build a green consumer market as per ILO guidelines.

The writer holds an MPP from KDI School of Public Policy and Management Seoul, South Korea, an MA in International relations, and an LLB from Shah Abdul Latif University KhairPur. Currently, he is working as an Assistant Director in the Board of Investment Pakistan. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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