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Comparing Child Labour Laws In India And Pakistan: A Need For Strengthening Enforcement And Collaboration

Child labour is a widespread issue that affects millions of children around the world. It refers to work that obstructs children's development and education or exploits them in some other way, infringing upon their human rights. It is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as "work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development"1 (Organization, 2021).

Among the nations with the highest rates of child labour are both Pakistan and India. Child labour remains a serious issue in both countries. Although both nations have enacted laws and programmes to combat child labour, the effectiveness of these measures has been constrained by a lack of funding, insufficient enforcement mechanisms, and socioeconomic considerations. This article discusses the comparative analysis of the child labour laws of India and Pakistan.

Child Labour laws in India and Pakistan

  • India
    The first law in India to address the child labour was the Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933 which prohibited the pledging of children's labour as security against loans. Subsequently, the Mines Act, 1952, the Factories Act, 1948, the Plantations Labour Act, 1951, and the Shops and Establishments Act, 1961 were enacted to prohibit the employment of children in hazardous industries.

    The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 19862 (India, 1986) was enacted to prohibit the employment of children below the age of 14 in hazardous industries such as mines, factories, and construction sites. The statute also prohibits the employment of children between the ages of 14 and 18 in hazardous occupations such as mining and explosives. However, the act allows children to work in non-hazardous industries and occupations outside of school hours or during vacations.
  • Pakistan
    Similarly, in Pakistan, the Employment of Children Act, 19913 (Pakistan, 1991) prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 in any occupation or industry. The act also prohibits the employment of children between the ages of 14 and 18 in hazardous occupations and industries. However, like in India, the act allows children to work in non-hazardous industries and occupations outside of school hours or during vacations.

    In addition to the laws mentioned above, both countries have ratified the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999 which requires the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, forced labour, and trafficking.

Government Policies

  • India
    To address the issue of child labour, the Indian government has established a number of policies. The National Child Labour Project (NCLP) seeks to provide children with education, vocational training, and a stipend in order to assist them recover after being rescued from hazardous occupations. The Right to Education Act, 2009 makes education a fundamental right (Article 21-A of the Constitution) for children between the ages of 6 and 14, ensuring that all children have access to free and compulsory education.
  • Pakistan
    Similarly, Pakistan government has also implemented policies to address child labour. The National Child Labour Survey (NCLS) attempts to collect information on child labour, its causes, and its effects, to develop elimination strategies. The National Plan of Action (NPA) aims to eliminate child labour by providing education, health care, and social security to vulnerable children and their families.

Analysis: Implementation of Labour Laws

Although both countries have laws and policies to address child labour, these laws have not been properly implemented.

In India, despite the existence of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 child labour is still prevalent, particularly in the unorganized sector. Lack of awareness about the hazards of child labour and significance of education among parents and employers has been a major challenge.

Similarly, in Pakistan, the Employment of Children Act has not been effectively implemented, and child labour still prevails, particularly in the informal sector. The absence of a coherent strategy to eliminate child labour and lack of collaboration among governmental institutions have been a major challenge.

The lack of political will and insufficient resources for enforcement have been major impediments in addressing the issue. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the issue of child labour worse in both countries. As a result of the lockdown, economic downturn and the closure of schools, many children have been forced to do labour to support their families.

Both nations must strengthen their legislative frameworks and enhance the efficacy of their enforcement actions in order to eradicate child labour completely. This can be achieved through greater awareness and initiatives like education campaigns for parents, employers, and children themselves (Organization, Global Estimates of Child Labour, 2017).4 The government must guarantee to provide access to education, healthcare, and social protection for vulnerable children and their families.

To ensure compliance with child labour laws, particularly in the informal sector, the government must further strengthen the monitoring and enforcement measures. This can be achieved by expanding the number of labour inspectors and carrying out regular workplace inspections to identify and tackle child labour cases.

The government should additionally collaborate with trade unions, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders to build a comprehensive plan to eradicate child labour. This plan should include steps to address the underlying issues that lead to child labour, such as poverty, illiteracy, and social exclusion.5 (KHAN, 2011)

The government should also offer youth vocational training and other opportunities to gain knowledge and skills that will enable them to find reputable employment and contribute to the economy. This will help prevent youth from being pushed into the unorganized sector and exploitative labour practices.

The effective eradication of child labour demands a multifaceted approach due to its complexities. Both India and Pakistan have policies and legislation in place to address child labour, but they have not been effectively implemented or enforced. The COVID-19 pandemic has further escalated the issue, making it even more urgent to take action.

Both nations need to strengthen their laws and policies, raise awareness and educate the public, provide access to healthcare, education, and social protection, bolster monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and work with civil society organisations and other stakeholders to develop an all-encompassing strategy for eliminating child labour. Only through a concerted effort can we ensure that all children have the opportunity to enjoy their childhood, access education, and grow up to become productive and empowered members of society.

  • Organization, I. L. (2021). What is Child Labour. Retrieved from International Labour Organization:
  •  India, G. o. (1986, December 23). Retrieved from Ministry of Labour and Employment:
  • Pakistan, G. o. (1991, April 6). Retrieved from National Assembly of Pakistan:
  • Organization, I. L. (2017). Global Estimates of Child Labour. Geneva: International Labour Organization.
  • KHAN, M. A. (2011, August 3). Implementing Laws against Child Labor: A Case Study of Pakistan. Retrieved from SSRN:
Note: The numbers at the beginning of each list item are manually typed and not generated by the HTML code.

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