The British ruled over the Indian Subcontinent, including present-day India and
Pakistan, for nearly 200 years (1757-1947) after the arrival of the monopolistic
East India Company, which exploited the region's resources for its own profit.
The Company manufactured goods at low prices, such as textiles and spices, and
sold them in Europe and the UK at inflated prices. With the establishment of the
textile industry in England during the industrial revolution, the British Crown
took control of the Indian Subcontinent and imposed stricter legislation to
close the market for Indian competitors.
After the First World War, labour unrest increased, leading to repeated strikes.
This prompted the recognition of labour-management relations for the first time,
as previously the common law principle of conspiracy applied to labour unions.
In 1926, the Indian Trade Union Act was passed, followed by the Trade Disputes
Act of 1929 after three years.
The Trade Union Act allowed workers to associate and be represented by unions,
while the Trade Disputes Act provided for the prevention and settlement of
disputes between employers and employees, which could be referred to a court of
inquiry or board of conciliation. Several other legislations related to labour
welfare were introduced during this period, including the Factories Act of 1934,
Payment of Wages Act of 1936, Mines Act of 1923, Workmen Compensation Act of
1923, and Dock Labor Act of 1934.
In the wake of the Second World War, the Essential Services Maintenance
Ordinance of 1941 was promulgated. The Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, the last
labour legislation before the partition of the Indian Subcontinent and
subsequent independence of India and Pakistan, provided for permanent
administrative machinery for the settlement of disputes through specific
procedures. The Act also allowed for the constitution of work committees and
referral of disputes to one-man industrial tribunals constituted for that
The idea of providing constitutional safeguards to labours by incorporating
provisions for them was adopted by both nations. This was in the form of
Fundamental Rights being conferred upon and Directive Principles being laid down
for the welfare of labourers in the country.
The Constitution of Pakistan under its Part II - Fundamental Rights and
Principles of Policy contains certain labour rights like:
The Constitution of India under its Part III - Fundamental Rights contains
certain provisions which are as follows:
- Article 11 - prohibition of all forms of slavery, forced labour and
- Article 17 - freedom to form associations and unions
- Article 25 - right to equality before law and prohibition of
discrimination on the grounds of sex alone
- Article 37(e) - securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring
that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age
or sex, and for maternity benefits for women in employment.
- Article 14, 15, 16 - provides for right to equality, protection against
discrimination and equal opportunity in employment or appointment to any
office under the state.
- Article 19(1)(c) - right to form associations or unions
- Article 23 - prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour
- Article 24 - no child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed
to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
- Additionally, Articles 38, 39, 42, 43 and 43-A forming part of Directive
Principles of State Policy also provide for directions for the state to act
in welfare of labourers.
Post-independence, Pakistan inherited laws like Trade Union Act of 1926,
Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act of 1946, Industrial Dispute Act of
1926 and Factories Act of 1934. Since, these laws were progressive, they helped
in further policymaking. The Trade Union (Amendment) Ordinance of 1960 brought
in the principle of compulsory recognition of trade unions by the employers.
Also, it abolished the unfair labour practices carried out by both employers and
During the regime of Ayub Khan, The Industrial Dispute Act of 1926 was replaced
by Industrial Dispute Ordinance of 1959 which brought drastic change in the
existing system. The Ordinance broadened the definition of public utility and
includesd various entreprises and also banned strikes. The idea of compulsory
adjudication made the aggrieved juggled themselves from one court to the other
in the search of justice.
Following this, during the time of military dictator General Yahya Khan, the
labour legislation were once again revamped with two key intentions: (1) the
trade union movements should be restricted to plant/factory (2) it should not
get involved with party politics. Since the time of independence, five labour
policies were announced in the year 1955, 1959, 1969, 1972 and 2002 which mainly
focused on the growth of trade unionism, protection of workers' rights,
settlement of industrial disputes and redressal of worker grievances.
In the year 2010, subjects of labour and employment were devolved to Provinces
under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, as a result of which
the Federal labour laws made applicable on Provinces under Article 270AA(6) of
the Constitution of Pakistan until replaced, amended or repealed by Provinces.In
2010, a labour policy was introduced with an aim to reduce the number of labour
laws but was a failure. In light of current economic crisis prevailing in the
nation, it is high time and all provinces and territories in Pakistan should
coordinate with one another to ensure that labour legislation is as uniform as
possible across Pakistan.
After independence, the government began to take a more active role in
regulating labour practices. The Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 provided for
the resolution of industrial disputes and the settlement of grievances through
negotiation and conciliation. The Factories Act of 1948 provided for better
working conditions, safety measures, and welfare facilities for factory workers.
The Employees' State Insurance Act of 1948 enabled workers to obtain insurance
in the event of illness, maternity, accident or death.
In subsequent years, more labour laws were enacted to protect the interests of
workers, including the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, The Employees' Provident Fund
and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1952. The Trade Unions Act of 1956 was also
passed to regulate trade unions and their activities.
The labour laws of independent India have been highly influenced by the leaders
of the freedom struggle, the members of the constituent assembly and also
international treaties and conventions. However, when the government adopted the
policies of Liberalization, Privatization & Globalization in the year 1991, a
new set of challenges were surfaced in the labour market as the existing legal
regime was inclined to the protection of labour and was not conducive for
In the year 2002, the Second National Commission on Labour proposed to
consolidated all central labour legislations into 4 groups and it led to the
introduction of 4 codes consolidating 29 central laws in 2019-20 namely:
- Code on Wages
- Industrial Relations Code
- Code of Social Security
- Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code
In conclusion, while India and Pakistan have made efforts to establish
comprehensive labour laws, there are differences in their approach and
implementation. Both countries need to continuously strive for improvements in
enforcement, awareness, and compliance to ensure that their labour laws
contribute to creating fair and inclusive work environments for their workforce.
One key difference between India and Pakistan is the level of flexibility in
their labour laws.
India has seen recent reforms aimed at liberalizing its labour laws and
promoting ease of doing business, while Pakistan has opted for a more regulated
approach with stringent labour laws to protect workers' rights. The need for
robust labour laws that protect the rights and welfare of workers is crucial in
promoting decent work and sustainable development in both India and Pakistan.
- Comparison of Labour Laws: Select Countries, INDIA EXIM BANK (2013),
- Labour and Employment Law: A Profile on Pakistan, Iftikhar Ahmad,
WAGEINDICATOR (2010), https://wageindicator.org/documents/Labour_and_Employment_LawA_Profile_on_Pakistan.pdf
- Saad Saud Almutairi, Comparison of Labour Laws in Different Countries, 7
Journal of Critical Reviews 908, 908-916 (2020).