Child labour in Pakistan. Both the Constitution and Labour laws prohibit the employment of children before the age of 14 years. However, ILO and UNICEF differentiate between child labour and child work. Is working by children child labour?

What does Child Labour mean in Pakistan? 

According to ILO and UNICEF, all work done by children can’t be classified as child labour. So, there is a need to differentiate between child labour and child work. If work is not affecting the health and personal development as well as the schooling of children, then this type of work cannot be taken negatively and does not fall in the category of child labour, e.g. assisting in family business or working during school holidays or after school hours. These activities are not “child labour”, rather these can be termed as ‘child work’. Child work is not only important for the personal development of children but it also provides them with necessary skills to be useful and productive members of a society.

According to ILO, Child Labour is defined as work that has the potential to deprive children of their childhood, their dignity and is also harmful for their physical, moral and mental development and it interferes with their education (either by not allowing them to attend school, leaving school prematurely i.e., without compulsory education or forcing them to combine school attendance with heavy work.). So, the question arises as to how should we differentiate between child labour and child work? This, according to ILO, depends upon age of the child, type and hours of work performed, working conditions as well as the development stage of individual countries. (–en/)

According to UNICEF, it is a work that exceeds some minimum number of hours, depending upon the child’s age and type of work. For more on UNICEF definition, please follow the link below. (

Which laws, in Pakistan, prohibit the employment of children?

Before we talk about labour laws, let’s first have a look at the constitutional provisions pertaining to child labour.

• Article 3: the state shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfillment of fundamental principle, from each according to his ability and to each according to his work.
• Article 11(3): No child below the age of 14 years shall be engaged in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment.
• Article 25(A): The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as determined by law.

• Article 37(e): The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring that women and children are not employed in vacations unsuited to their age or sex, and for maternity benefits for women in employment.

Following instruments of legislation deal exclusively with the subject of child labour.

· The Employment of Children Act 1991
· The Employment of Children Rules 1995

Other than these two, there are other laws as well which deal with the employment of children and regulate the working conditions for employed child workers.

• Mines Act, 1923
• The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933
• The Factories Act, 1934
• The Road Transport Workers Ordinance, 1961
• Shops and Establishments Ordinance, 1969
• Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 2001

What is minimum age in Pakistan (i.e. the age at which a person is allowed to work and is not regarded a child)?

The Employment Of Children Act 1991 defines “child” as a person below 14 years of age and an “adolescent” as a person below 18 years of age (the definitions of child and adolescent in this act override these definitions in other labour laws). As mentioned above, the Constitution of Pakistan also regards the minimum age as 14 years. However, the 18th amendment has actually raised the minimum age up to 16 years without amending the labour laws, so contradiction continues. Article 25(A) of the Constitution says that the state now has to provide compulsory education to all children between the ages of five and sixteen years, which means that, a child can’t be allowed to work before 16 years of age.

The law also provides for certain exceptions. It says that no child has to be employed in any occupation, establishment or process defined as hazardous for children except where such process is carried by the family as a business or in any (training) school established, assisted and recognized by the government.

What are the Processes and Occupations where child employment is prohibited?

Under section 4 of the Employment of Children Act 1991, the Federal Government may notify any occupations and process where children’s employment is prohibited.

The Schedule

[See section 3]



Any occupation- connected with-

(1) transport of passengers, goods or mail ;

(2) work in a catering establishment at a railway station, involving the movement of a vendor or any other employee of the establishment from one platform to another or into or out of a moving train;

(3) work relating to the construction of a railway station or with any other work where such work is done in close proximity to or between the railway lines; and

(4) a port authority within the limits of any port.


(1) Work inside underground mines and above ground quarries including blasting and assisting in blasting.
(2) Work with power driven cutting machinery like saws, shears, guillotines and agricultural machines, thrashers, fodder cutting machines.
(3) Work with live electrical wires over 50 volts.
(4) All operations related to leather tanning process e.g., soaking, de-hairing, liming, chrome tanning, de-liming, pickling, de-fleshing, ink application.
(5) Mixing and manufacture of pesticides and insecticides; and fumigation.
(6) Sandblasting and other work involving exposure to free silica.
(7) Work with exposure to all toxic, explosive and carcinogenic chemicals e.g., asbestos, benzene, ammonia, chlorine, manganese, cadmium, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, caustic soda, phosphorus, benzidene dyes, isocyanates, carbon tetrachloride, carbon disulphide, epoxy resins, formaldehyde, metal fumes, heavy metals like nickel, mercury chromium, lead, arsenic, beryllium, fiber glass.
(8) Work with exposure to cement dust in cement industry.
(9) Work with exposure to coal dust.
(10) Manufacture and sale of fireworks and explosives.
(11) Work at the sites where liquid (liquefied) petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) is filled in cylinders.
(12) Work on glass and metal furnaces; and glass bangles manufacturing.
(13) Work in the cloth weaving, printing, dyeing and finishing sections.
(14) Work inside sewer pipelines, pits and storage tanks.
(15) Stone – crushing.
(16) Lifting and carrying of heavy weight (15kg and above), especially in transport industry.
(17) Carpet- weaving.
(18) Working two meters or more above the floor.
(19) All scavenging including hospital waste.
(20) Tobacco processing and manufacturing including niswar and bidi making.
(21) Deep-sea fishing, commercial fishing and processing of fish and seafood.
(22) Sheep-casing and wool industry.
(23) Ship- breaking.
(24) Surgical instruments manufacturing specially in vendors’ workshops.
(25) Spice- grinding.
(26) Work in boiler house.
(27) Work in cinemas, mini cinemas and cyber clubs.
(28) Mica cutting and splitting.
(29) Shell as manufacturing.
(30) Soap manufacture.
(31) Wool cleaning.
(32) Building and construction industry.
(33) Manufacture of slate pencils, including packing.
(34) Manufacture of products from Agate.” Noti. S.R.O. 1280(1)/2005, dt. 20-12-2005. Gaz. of Pak., Extra., Pt. I, December 27, 2005.

How does government regulate working conditions for children and adolescents?

In accordance with part III and section 7 of the Employment of Children Act, a child or adolescent can’t work more than 7 hours a day (it includes one hour of rest, so essentially 6 hours of work). The work has to be arranged in such a way that after every 3 hours of continuous work, the worker can has an interval of at least one hour of rest. A child can’t be permitted or required to work between 07:00 p.m. to 08:00 a.m. Moreover, a child can’t be required or even permitted to work overtime.

The Factories Act 1934 contains the following provisions regarding employment of children. Section 50 of the Act prohibits employment of children (under the age of 14 years) in any factory. Section 51 requires adolescent workers (who are above 14 years of age and below the age of 18 years) are not allowed to work in a factory unless;

i) A certificate of fitness has been issued to them by a qualified medical practitioner and that certificate is in the custody of the manager

ii) He carries, while at work, a token giving reference to such certificate

No child or adolescent shall work at a machine unless he has been fully instructed as to the dangers likely to arise in the course of work with the machine and precautions to be observed. Similarly, he/she must have received sufficient training in work at a machine or is working under adequate supervision by a person who has thorough knowledge and experience of the working of machine (Section 28 of the Factories Act). No woman or child shall be employed in any part of the factory for pressing cotton in which a cotton opener is at work.

As for the Mines Act, it prohibits employment of children in any part of the mine and even presence of children in any part of the mine which is below ground. It also has provision on medical certificate like the one mentioned above.

According to the Road Transport Workers Ordinance 1961, no person, other than the driver, shall be employed in any road transport service unless he has attained the age of eighteen years. Further, it also requires the driver to be of twenty-one years of age.

According to the Shops and Establishments Ordinance 1969, no child shall be allowed or required to work in any establishment (section 20). It also requires that no young person (this term has been used collectively for children and adolescents i.e. between 14-18 years) shall be employed in any establishment other than between the hours of 09:00 a.m. and 07:00 p.m. (section 7). In accordance with section 8 of the act, no young person is permitted or required to work more than 7 hours a day (these include one hour of rest) and 42 hours a week.

The Children (Pledging of Labour) Act, 1933 stipulates that every agreement that pledges the services/labour of a child for any payment or benefit is null and void. However, it provides an exception for an agreement if that is made, without any detriment to the child and if child’s services are provided for reasonable wages and if that agreement is terminable at a week’s notice.

The Merchant Shipping Ordinance 2001 (section 110) provides that no person under the age of 15 shall be engaged or carried to sea to work in any capacity in any ship except:

• In a school ship, training in accordance with the prescribed conditions
• In a ship in which all persons employed are members of one family

What are the penalty levels for employing children?

In accordance with section 14 of the Employment of Children Act, whosoever employs any child or permits any child to work in occupations and processes mentioned above, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to PKR20, 000 or with both. If a person, who was already convicted under the law, commits the same offence again, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years.