The status of child labour in Pakistan is alarming with about aquarter of the country’s workforce being children aged between four andfourteen years. Pakistan’s condition contributes to the disenfranchisement ofabout eleven million children who have to take responsibilities as part of thehuman capital depriving them of education and socialisation opportunities. Thereliance on children to supplement the human capital needs of Pakistan driveswages down that favour employers (Rotsky, 2017).
Nevertheless, the low wagesassociated with child labour do not reflect the real picture of production inthe country because of the inefficiencies of hiring children who lack theneeded skills, expertise, and knowledge to stimulate growth. According to thehuman capital theory, a skilled labour force lays the foundation of economicgrowth. Therefore, the case scenario of Pakistan exemplifies a country wherethe overreliance on child labour is counterproductive to the goal ofsustainable economic growth (Nawaz, 2016). The theoretical foundations underpinthe importance associated with the stock of knowledge and skills of labourersthat enhance the level of creativity and capacity of employees to contribute tothe production of economic value (Hartog, 2009). The theory offers theframework for understanding the inefficiencies that contribute to thestagnation of economic growth in Pakistan because of the quality of the labourforce that has a significant percentage of untrained children. Pakistan offers an exemplification ofthe impacts associated with involving children in the labour force anddepriving them the opportunity to seek education and sharpen their skills.Eleven million children take active roles and propel production activities inthe nation’s factories while offering their labour under poor and brutalconditions that undermine the maximisation of their input (Hussain & Ali,2017).
The level of poverty in Pakistan coupled with the competing choicesbetween pursing education and working continue to impact negatively on thecountry’s productivity. Children from poor backgrounds in Pakistan facedifferent challenges similar to others in developing countries as they areexpected to work to supplement the meagre earnings of their parents. Theaffected children that participate in the labour force aged below fifteen yearslack the basic education that leads to extensive damages on the quality of thecountry’s human capital (Rotsky, 2017).
Notably, the inclusion of more thaneleven million children to the Pakistani labour market when examined using thehuman capital theory contributes to a cycle of stagnated economic growth. Pakistani children transition intounskilled personnel when they become adults as millions of others are recruitedto add to the growing numbers of uneducated workers. The trade-offs betweenpursuing education looking for work in the nation’s informal sector translatesto children offering their services on a full-time basis and that underminesthe possibility of attending school. ILO (International Labour Organisation)underscores the gravity of the challenge faced in Pakistan as children have towork for more than the standard thirty-five hours weekly as about fifty percentof those that participate in production provide their labour for aboutfifty-six hours (Rotsky, 2017). The job environment in Pakistan signify theneed for considering the impacts of child labour as children are offered lowwages and have to put up with poor working conditions (Hussain & Ali,2017). While some industries provide children that lack the opportunity ofpursuing education the informal training that sharpens their skills and expertise,child labour has the aggregate effect of minimising economic growth.
The Pakistani legal regime considerschild labour as the employment of persons aged fourteen years and below, andcontinues to evolve to offer more protections against the exploitation of itsyoung citizens (Khan, 2011). Nevertheless, the menace of child labour asexamined through the lenses of the human capital theory should be addressedbecause of its effects on the country’s economic growth. Some of the elementsthat contribute to child labour in Pakistani include the availability of cheaplabour, overpopulation, illiteracy, poverty, and the capacity of the labourmarket to absorb many Pakistanis. Child labour as evidenced in the case ofPakistan should not be described based on economic conditions in isolation butother factors such as illiteracy and the growth of the population should beconsidered. Notably, the human capital theory underlines the need forchannelling investments towards the improvement of the skills and competenciesof workers (Hartog, 2009).
In Pakistan, the reverse to theprinciple of investment in human capital is evidenced by the conditions thatpromote child labour at the expense of improving access to quality education(Hussain & Ali, 2017). While some of the investments in the educationsector could fail to produce the desired results of improving the quality oflabour provided, learning provides the basic knowledge to stir the creativityof the workforce. Therefore, the application of the human capital theory to thecase of Pakistan facilitates the understanding of the shortcomings faced in thecountry because of its overreliance on child labour as one of the mechanisms ofminimising labour costs. The theoretical foundation takes a capitalist approachto the development of labour competencies through reinforcing the educationsystem. Notably, child labour reduces the chances of workers having theautonomy of choosing between offering labour during their childhood or seekingbasic education to lay the framework for training.
While the elements of thehuman capital theory could support child labour as evidenced by the pursuit ofcompetence which children gain as they offer they work in factories, earlyemployment threatens the ease and efficiency of spreading knowledge in thelabour market (Hartog, 2009). Education serves to enlightenchildren and prepare them to join the workforce where they get the opportunityof gaining practical skills. Therefore, child labour in Pakistan threatens thelikelihood of increasing the competence in the workforce, as the majority ofthe employees lack the formal education to advance and progress in theircareers.
Additionally, child labour denies millions of Pakistani children theopportunity of being involved in different professional sectors that requirespecific expertise as exemplified by the field of medicine. While the humancapital theory emphasises the need for experience as one of the ways ofimproving the quality and skills of the labour force, some of the professionalssuch as doctors and lawyers have to go through formal schooling (Hartog, 2009).Hence, millions of children suffer from the consequences of early employmentand lack the capacity of securing better-paying jobs. The trickle effect ofchild labour in the Pakistani economy can be explained through the prism of thenumber of experts required to enhance production (Chaudhry, 2017). The deficiency of skills andexpertise remain a challenge to the quest of enhancing creativity andinnovations, and thus, the economy suffers because of the overdependence onexternal personnel. The ingredients of a progressive human capital pool includeskills, attitudes, and knowledge combined with a host of other capabilitiesthat people acquire (Hartog, 2009). Therefore, the theoretical foundationsunderline the necessity of gains in the human capital through knowledgeacquired formally and informally.
The need for formal education, thus, cannotbe discounted as a missing element in a substantial portion of the Pakistani labourforce because of the involvement of millions of children in production (Khan,Khan, & Sattar, 2010). The human capital theory provides the directcorrelation of formal education and the rise in one’s earning, and theexploitation of children fuels a continuous cycle of meagre wages as theycannot compete at the same level with their counterparts who have been toschool (Hartog, 2009). Hence, the future of the millions of children labourersis jeopardised as they have to contend with lower earnings compared to thosewho have received formal education. The use of children in the labourmarket reduces the chances of human capital investment at the individual andcorporate level as the income that could have been generated in the future isconsumed at the present (Hartog, 2009). The child labour market in Pakistanfollows the demand and supply rules of an economic system. Children in Pakistanjoin the labour market from as early as ages four and five and are involved inthe making of bracelets and bangles. Such activities as bangle and braceletmaking have created a tradition of overreliance on child labour that meets thewage expectations of the employers whose earnings cannot support the demandsassociated with adults (Khan, Khan, & Sattar, 2010). Child labour inPakistan serves as the symbol of poverty that forces parents and children tomake the trade-off between education and working to add to the householdincome.
The quest to improve the standard of living at the household levelincreases the exploitation of children as workers. Child labour does not translate topoverty but rather addresses the vicious circle of families seeking tosupplement their incomes and capitalising on the growing demand for labouracross different sectors. Therefore, the demand for indiscriminate labour hasincreased the exploitation of children who lack the strength, skills, andexpertise to contribute positively to the economic growth of Pakistan.Household offer ready supply of children to sustain production in Pakistan. Nevertheless,the supply responds to the demands, particularly in some of the urban areassuch as Karachi and Islamabad, where factories thrive on the input of children(Nawaz, 2016). The labour that children provide is cheap and cannot be matchedby any other demographic in the county. Pakistan continues to suffer from poorproductivity because of the cycle created from the reliance on children toprovide labour as the wages of adults are affected.
Child labour has been oneof the leading obstacles against the adoption and assimilation of technologiesin Pakistan because of the dependence on cheap labour as the populationcontinues to grow (Sher, Gilani, Zeeshan, Hussain, & Mushtaq, 2016). The 1973 Pakistani Constitutionoutlaws the employment of children aged below fourteen years but that has notstopped factories from engaging the services of the younger citizens (Khan,2011). The state has the obligation of ensuring that the rights of children areprotected to minimise the cases of those working under hazardous conditionsthat compromise the future of the country (Hussain & Ali, 2017). Themajority of the industries that employ and rely on child labour are hidden andare in the informal sector making it difficult for labour inspectors tominimise exploitation. The proportion and magnitude of the child labour menacein Pakistan alongside the absence of reliable data make it difficult to fightthe vice in the country.
The labour pool of willing children and parents servesto fuel the demand for younger workers who are paid less compared to adults.Pakistan suffers from the deficiency of skills capacity as about a quarter ofits labour force are children who do not attend school and are found indifferent economic zones. Children earn about a third of the wages paid toadults and are plunged into the economic sphere while they are young.
Thelabour pool in Pakistan remains inexhaustible because of population factors andthe dependence on unskilled workers that hinder the level of productivity andinnovativeness.