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The status of child labour in Pakistan is alarming with about a
quarter of the country’s workforce being children aged between four and
fourteen years. Pakistan’s condition contributes to the disenfranchisement of
about eleven million children who have to take responsibilities as part of the
human capital depriving them of education and socialisation opportunities. The
reliance on children to supplement the human capital needs of Pakistan drives
wages down that favour employers (Rotsky, 2017). Nevertheless, the low wages
associated with child labour do not reflect the real picture of production in
the country because of the inefficiencies of hiring children who lack the
needed skills, expertise, and knowledge to stimulate growth. According to the
human capital theory, a skilled labour force lays the foundation of economic
growth. Therefore, the case scenario of Pakistan exemplifies a country where
the overreliance on child labour is counterproductive to the goal of
sustainable economic growth (Nawaz, 2016). The theoretical foundations underpin
the importance associated with the stock of knowledge and skills of labourers
that enhance the level of creativity and capacity of employees to contribute to
the production of economic value (Hartog, 2009). The theory offers the
framework for understanding the inefficiencies that contribute to the
stagnation of economic growth in Pakistan because of the quality of the labour
force that has a significant percentage of untrained children.


Pakistan offers an exemplification of
the impacts associated with involving children in the labour force and
depriving them the opportunity to seek education and sharpen their skills.

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Eleven million children take active roles and propel production activities in
the nation’s factories while offering their labour under poor and brutal
conditions that undermine the maximisation of their input (Hussain & Ali,
2017). The level of poverty in Pakistan coupled with the competing choices
between pursing education and working continue to impact negatively on the
country’s productivity. Children from poor backgrounds in Pakistan face
different challenges similar to others in developing countries as they are
expected to work to supplement the meagre earnings of their parents. The
affected children that participate in the labour force aged below fifteen years
lack the basic education that leads to extensive damages on the quality of the
country’s human capital (Rotsky, 2017). Notably, the inclusion of more than
eleven million children to the Pakistani labour market when examined using the
human capital theory contributes to a cycle of stagnated economic growth.

Pakistani children transition into
unskilled personnel when they become adults as millions of others are recruited
to add to the growing numbers of uneducated workers. The trade-offs between
pursuing education looking for work in the nation’s informal sector translates
to children offering their services on a full-time basis and that undermines
the possibility of attending school. ILO (International Labour Organisation)
underscores the gravity of the challenge faced in Pakistan as children have to
work for more than the standard thirty-five hours weekly as about fifty percent
of those that participate in production provide their labour for about
fifty-six hours (Rotsky, 2017). The job environment in Pakistan signify the
need for considering the impacts of child labour as children are offered low
wages and have to put up with poor working conditions (Hussain & Ali,
2017). While some industries provide children that lack the opportunity of
pursuing education the informal training that sharpens their skills and expertise,
child labour has the aggregate effect of minimising economic growth.

The Pakistani legal regime considers
child labour as the employment of persons aged fourteen years and below, and
continues to evolve to offer more protections against the exploitation of its
young citizens (Khan, 2011). Nevertheless, the menace of child labour as
examined through the lenses of the human capital theory should be addressed
because of its effects on the country’s economic growth. Some of the elements
that contribute to child labour in Pakistani include the availability of cheap
labour, overpopulation, illiteracy, poverty, and the capacity of the labour
market to absorb many Pakistanis. Child labour as evidenced in the case of
Pakistan should not be described based on economic conditions in isolation but
other factors such as illiteracy and the growth of the population should be
considered. Notably, the human capital theory underlines the need for
channelling investments towards the improvement of the skills and competencies
of workers (Hartog, 2009).

In Pakistan, the reverse to the
principle of investment in human capital is evidenced by the conditions that
promote child labour at the expense of improving access to quality education
(Hussain & Ali, 2017). While some of the investments in the education
sector could fail to produce the desired results of improving the quality of
labour provided, learning provides the basic knowledge to stir the creativity
of the workforce. Therefore, the application of the human capital theory to the
case of Pakistan facilitates the understanding of the shortcomings faced in the
country because of its overreliance on child labour as one of the mechanisms of
minimising labour costs. The theoretical foundation takes a capitalist approach
to the development of labour competencies through reinforcing the education
system. Notably, child labour reduces the chances of workers having the
autonomy of choosing between offering labour during their childhood or seeking
basic education to lay the framework for training. While the elements of the
human capital theory could support child labour as evidenced by the pursuit of
competence which children gain as they offer they work in factories, early
employment threatens the ease and efficiency of spreading knowledge in the
labour market (Hartog, 2009).

Education serves to enlighten
children and prepare them to join the workforce where they get the opportunity
of gaining practical skills. Therefore, child labour in Pakistan threatens the
likelihood of increasing the competence in the workforce, as the majority of
the employees lack the formal education to advance and progress in their
careers. Additionally, child labour denies millions of Pakistani children the
opportunity of being involved in different professional sectors that require
specific expertise as exemplified by the field of medicine. While the human
capital theory emphasises the need for experience as one of the ways of
improving the quality and skills of the labour force, some of the professionals
such as doctors and lawyers have to go through formal schooling (Hartog, 2009).

Hence, millions of children suffer from the consequences of early employment
and lack the capacity of securing better-paying jobs. The trickle effect of
child labour in the Pakistani economy can be explained through the prism of the
number of experts required to enhance production (Chaudhry, 2017).

The deficiency of skills and
expertise remain a challenge to the quest of enhancing creativity and
innovations, and thus, the economy suffers because of the overdependence on
external personnel. The ingredients of a progressive human capital pool include
skills, attitudes, and knowledge combined with a host of other capabilities
that people acquire (Hartog, 2009). Therefore, the theoretical foundations
underline the necessity of gains in the human capital through knowledge
acquired formally and informally. The need for formal education, thus, cannot
be discounted as a missing element in a substantial portion of the Pakistani labour
force because of the involvement of millions of children in production (Khan,
Khan, & Sattar, 2010). The human capital theory provides the direct
correlation of formal education and the rise in one’s earning, and the
exploitation of children fuels a continuous cycle of meagre wages as they
cannot compete at the same level with their counterparts who have been to
school (Hartog, 2009). Hence, the future of the millions of children labourers
is jeopardised as they have to contend with lower earnings compared to those
who have received formal education.

The use of children in the labour
market reduces the chances of human capital investment at the individual and
corporate level as the income that could have been generated in the future is
consumed at the present (Hartog, 2009). The child labour market in Pakistan
follows the demand and supply rules of an economic system. Children in Pakistan
join the labour market from as early as ages four and five and are involved in
the making of bracelets and bangles. Such activities as bangle and bracelet
making have created a tradition of overreliance on child labour that meets the
wage expectations of the employers whose earnings cannot support the demands
associated with adults (Khan, Khan, & Sattar, 2010). Child labour in
Pakistan serves as the symbol of poverty that forces parents and children to
make the trade-off between education and working to add to the household
income. The quest to improve the standard of living at the household level
increases the exploitation of children as workers.

Child labour does not translate to
poverty but rather addresses the vicious circle of families seeking to
supplement their incomes and capitalising on the growing demand for labour
across different sectors. Therefore, the demand for indiscriminate labour has
increased the exploitation of children who lack the strength, skills, and
expertise 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 areas
such as Karachi and Islamabad, where factories thrive on the input of children
(Nawaz, 2016). The labour that children provide is cheap and cannot be matched
by any other demographic in the county. Pakistan continues to suffer from poor
productivity because of the cycle created from the reliance on children to
provide labour as the wages of adults are affected. Child labour has been one
of the leading obstacles against the adoption and assimilation of technologies
in Pakistan because of the dependence on cheap labour as the population
continues to grow (Sher, Gilani, Zeeshan, Hussain, & Mushtaq, 2016).

The 1973 Pakistani Constitution
outlaws the employment of children aged below fourteen years but that has not
stopped factories from engaging the services of the younger citizens (Khan,
2011). The state has the obligation of ensuring that the rights of children are
protected to minimise the cases of those working under hazardous conditions
that compromise the future of the country (Hussain & Ali, 2017). The
majority of the industries that employ and rely on child labour are hidden and
are in the informal sector making it difficult for labour inspectors to
minimise exploitation. The proportion and magnitude of the child labour menace
in Pakistan alongside the absence of reliable data make it difficult to fight
the vice in the country. The labour pool of willing children and parents serves
to 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 of
its labour force are children who do not attend school and are found in
different economic zones. Children earn about a third of the wages paid to
adults and are plunged into the economic sphere while they are young. The
labour pool in Pakistan remains inexhaustible because of population factors and
the dependence on unskilled workers that hinder the level of productivity and


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