A survey recently carried out by the International Labour Organization on child labour in the Punjab carpet industry puts the number (of working children) at 107,065 against 1.2 million quoted by a Unicef study. The survey is claimed to be the first
It reveals that there are 95,204 carpet weaving household in the province and 107,065 children weavers aged between five and 14. Of them, the number of girls is 62,904 and boys 44,161 (a ratio of 54:41). In the central Punjab, this ratio goes up to 67:733, the survey adds.
The highest concentration of the working children in the industry is found in Lahore, Shiekhupura, kausar, Narowal, Faisalabad, Multan, Vehari, DeraGhazi Khan and Attock.
A vast majority of working children (77.97 per cent) work at home. The ratio of children working at home is the highest (91.86 percent) in the central Punjab while it is (45.04 per cent in the southern Punjab where sheds are more common.
The job duration for a majority of children in six hours, but in some cases it goes up to eight hours a day. In some areas like the northern Punjab, children have to spend more than eight hours a day. The children work five to six days a week.
According to the survey, the monthly income for carpet weaving family is Rs2, 000. More than 25 per cent of the households earn a monthly income of Rs2, 000 to Rs4, 000. where the entire family is involved, the children are being paid separate wages. Some parents pay Rs5 to Rs10 a day to their children as pocket money while children's working in sheds earn up to Rs50 a day, the survey adds.
About 79 per cent of the carpet household respondents, who did this interviewed by this reporter, are illiterate. The survey reveals that only 8.75 per cent working children are attending school.
As job opportunities in rural areas are limited, education is not considered important.
Consequently, children as young as five years start working as helpers. By the time they reach nine or 10, they become skillful weavers and contributors to family income.
Calculated on the basis of number of working children in the Punjab, which accounts for 80 per cent of total carpet production in the country, the total number of working children in the industry in Pakistan is almost 134,000. Allowing for a statistical error of plus or minus 10 per cent, the survey arrives at a figure of 125,000 to 150,000.
The number quoted in the survey is much lower than the one claimed by earlier studies by Unicef and other agencies. Some of the often-quoted figure of child labour in the carpet industry in one million, 90 per cent of them children, claimed by Unicef and the Pakistan government (1992 survey).
Another frequently quoted study is that of Unicef-Punjab, which puts the number of children working in the carpet industry at one million.
A study carried out by the Bonded Labour Liberation Front claims that the number of children involved in the carpet industry is 0.5 million.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Carpet Manufactures and Exporters Association sources have long held that the number of child workers in the carpet industry ranges from 25,000 to 35,000.
Regarding the varying estimators of child labour, the Institute of development Economics in its publication 'Child Labour in Pakistan,' made these remarks: " The estimates of children working in the carpet industry vary sharply from one study to another. Unicef reporters 1.2 million children (working in carpet industry) while Mahmood (1990) reports 0.5 million. These estimates are no better than 'guesstimates'.