Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

Child Labour Among Afghan Refugee Children: Investigating the Underlying Drivers
Working Paper 2023:14
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Child Labour Among Afghan Refugee Children: Investigating the Underlying Drivers

Publication Year : 2023
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Among socio-political issues that are closely linked with the formation of human capital of a country is the threat of child labour. Working of school-aged children leads to loss of educational and developmental milestones and leads to insufferable damage to children’s future. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines the term “Child Labour” as “a work that destitute children of their childhood, their potential and dignity, additionally that is harmful to mental and physical development of child. Actually, it refers to work that is; socially, morally, mentally and physically hazardous and detrimental to child development. And, interferes with child schooling by, depriving them to attend school and compel them to leave school permanently or combine school attendance and work (ILO, 2021a).

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in child labour among academics, professionals, media and many international organisations. All stakeholders have universal agreement that child labour is undesirable and should be eradicated. But, have no common agenda to tackle this problem. Though, it’s generally believed that the starting point for child labour is associated with Industrial revolution in Europe. However, historians believe that child labour was at its peak during expansion of domestic season before the industrial revolution. And, the industrial countries first felt the negative repercussions of child labour. Therefore, the incidence of child labour latter on reduced in industrial states owing to economic prosperity, the demand for child labour reduced and child labour supply was absorbed by universal schooling (Fyfe, 1989).

On the other hand, incidence of child labour is rooted in developing countries. Unfortunately, the progress against child labour is stagnant since 2016, in fact worldwide the number of child labour increased from 151 million to 160 million by 2020 (UNICEF, 2021). Additionally, the persistence of child labour could augment to 168 million from 160 million, if immediate remedial measures are not taken. This threat is due to the covid-19 pandemic (UNICEF, 2021). In Asia and Pacific, 62 million children are working as child labour, revealed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO, 2021b). In the Subcontinent, children were always engaged in agricultural sector. Because, in majority of the villages a single school was not available. Thus, parents considered child working in farm as better option and as a form of capital investment because children were learning while doing work in farms. However, with British entry, massive exploitation of children began in subcontinent. Pakistan, being a developing country is also facing the incidence of child labour in different forms. In fact, child labour in Pakistan began during Ayoub khan’s era in 1960s when he committed to enlarge the industrial sector in Pakistan. However, two laws were passed in Pakistan to eradicate the incidence of child labour in country. The first 1991 Employment of Children Act (ECA) (PECA, 1991) which prevented the use of children under age of 14 in hazardous environment in industries or mines. And, in 1992, second law was passed as Bonded Labour Act (BLA) (BLA, 1992), which banned Peshgi system. Furthermore, Pakistan Ratified Convention No 182 of UN in 2001 (UN 182, 2001, p. 18). But still exploitation of children exists in Pakistan on large scale.

Child labour is widely believed to be a social evil and have negative repercussions on socioeconomic development of developing countries such as Pakistan and is a prominent issue in Pakistan. According to child labour survey in Pakistan (1996) – ILO child labour was 3.3 million (Pakistanis ILO, 1996). However, the number of child labour increased to 12.5 million by 2015, (Pakistan labour survey 2014-15) (Labour Force Survey 2014-15, 2014). Moreover, Pakistan Social and Living Standard 2018-19 survey reveals that in Pakistan 30 percent of children aged between 5-6 are out of school. Indeed, regional disparity exists largest for Balochistan 59 percent followed by Sindh 42 percent. Similarly, the literacy rate in Pakistan according to PSLM 2018-19 is 60 percent and lowest in Balochistan with only 40 percent population of the province are literate (PSLM / HIES 2018-19, 2018). The incidence of child labour is also common among Afghan refugee children living in Balochistan. (ILO, 2012) 45417 children aged between 10 -14 were working. In fact, majority of them belong to Afghan refugee’s children. In the same way, (Tufail et al., 2004) founded that there were around 15,000 street children in Quetta city, the key reason behind huge number is the Afghan immigrants. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report, Net enrolment ratio in primary education of refugees living in camps are 12 percent (M), 10 percent (F). And, in urban area 13 percent (M) and 11 percent (F). Proportion of students starting grade 1 who reach to grade 5, among refugees who live in camps is 52 percent(M), 30 percent(F) urban area 46 percent(M), 35 percent(F). Moreover, Literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds in camps 39 percent and in urban area, the literacy rate is 47 percent.

Although, work makes some positive contributions to child’s development. Such as it makes one responsible, independent, and benefit their families financially to meet subsistence, or provide an opportunity to learn some skills. On the other hand, working children face many problems and has serious repercussions on child personal life and society as a whole. There is more probability of morbidity, injury and hazard risk for working children. Along with adverse health outcomes, they are exposed to environmental and psychological hazard in workplace (Graiter and lerer, 1998). Thus, negative impacts are more than positive contributions. Therefore, it’s important to investigate the issue before the formation of remedial measures.

Unfortunately, there is no single study that covers the issue of child labour among Afghan refugees living in Pakistan for last 40 years, with 2.4 million registered population in the country (UNHCR). They are ignored by all stakeholders. In fact, the incidence of child labour among Afghan refugee’s children living in Balochistan is high (45415 working children (ILO, 2012) and, has different situations. Therefore, there might be different socioeconomic factors behind child labour among Afghan Refugees. Therefore, it’s important to investigate the root causes with in context of Afghan refugees. Similarly, they deserve special policy measures to eradicate the incidence of child labour among Afghan refugees. Therefore, the objective of this study is to investigate the socioeconomic factors behind child labour among afghan refugees. And, the way forward. 
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