Category Archives: Labour

Human side of jobs

plumber

By Zubeida Mustafa

A MAJOR challenge faced by Pakistan’s economy today is one of providing opportunities for income generation to the fast-growing manpower. With the country’s population escalating at the rate of 2 per cent per annum and three million young people coming of age every year the first priority is obviously job creation. But barely 700,000 new jobs are generated annually.

According to statistics given by Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre, Washington, this has led to a massive exodus of young people to cities and this has caused rapid urbanisation in the country which, in turn, has created difficulties of its own. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Labour, New, Women |

The human touch

By Zubeida Mustafa

A SPARK has been lit in a 3,500-strong community living in the backwaters of Larkana district. Known as Khairo Dero, the place was the antithesis of what its name implies: it was one of the most depressed goths in the area. A turning point came in 2004. A young female journalist touring rural Sindh was deeply moved by the neglect and apathy she witnessed, especially in Khairo Dero, her ancestral village.

That was Naween Mangi, today the Pakistan bureau chief of Bloomberg, a premier American business and financial news channel. It took her four years to internalise the despondency of her people and think of a strategy to breathe new life into their existence. Thus she hoped to bring about the ‘silent revolution’ she had begun to dream of. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Housing, Labour, New, Social Issues, Women |

Celebrating women’s leadership

By Zubeida Mustafa

The time has come to celebrate women’s leadership in Pakistan because so many of them are in that role to justify a memorable celebration. When I look back to the days when I entered professional life more than five decades ago, I remember that there were so few of us around that it could be quite a lonely spot to be in. Besides, with a few notable exceptions, there were few who could claim to be playing a leadership role. We were the followers until we found our bearings and gained confidence.

It was, however, realized even then that once the barriers are down women who are enterprising will inevitably refuse to hold themselves back and would proceed to seize the opportunity. And they did, with many of them rising to the top on the basis of merit.

In the middle decade of the last century, Pakistan’s statistics stated that only two per cent of the women were in the workforce. Among them the majority was in menial jobs. The picture has changed considerably today. The World Bank estimates that 28 per cent of the women in Pakistan are engaged in what economists  call productive labour. In absolute numbers this is a big jump, but nothing compared to many other countries. If in this scenario there are women in leadership positions it is something to be proud of. Continue reading

1 Comment | Posted in Economy, Human Rights, Labour, Women |

Dignity, not charity

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

ONE problem with our poverty alleviation strategies is that they benefit the givers more than the recipients. Yet another problem is that they generally involve doling out in public view money to the underprivileged which is demeaning and robs them of their dignity.

The government itself has reduced us to a nation of beggars by going around the world with a begging bowl. As a quid pro quo it willingly sells its sovereignty.

Against this backdrop, it is immensely satisfying to see people in our midst who believe in meeting the needs of the poor without hurting their self-esteem. I met one such couple, Ali Raza and his wife Shibli, who founded Waseela in 2010 with the idea of bringing about a change in society. Continue reading

8 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Labour, New, Social Issues |

Restoring childhood

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

  1. WHEN Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese-American poet, wrote his famous poem Pity the Nation he probably could not in his wildest dreams imagine the excesses a nation can commit against children, whose souls, according to him, “dwell in the house of tomorrow”. Had he sensed man’s brutality towards his own offspring, Gibran would have added, ‘Pity the nation that robs its children of their childhood’.
  2. The shocking murder of a child in Lahore allegedly by her employer is a small example of how Pakistan treats its children. According to Arshad Mahmood, a child’s rights activist, 24 children engaged in domestic labour have been killed in Pakistan since January 2010 when Shazia Masih was reported to have been brutally killed in the lawyer’s home where she worked.
  3. It must be noted that domestic labour is only one sector where children go to earn a living. Equally deplorable are the Worst forms of child labour as described by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) in two districts of Sindh — Tando Allahyar and Badin.
  4. Researched painstakingly by Zeenat Hisam and her team, these two slim volumes are eye-openers. They highlight the magnitude and various dimensions of child labour in these areas of Sindh. The idea is to keep the public focus on this problem and design interventions to eradicate child labour. The reports also identify the socio-economic factors that have created conditions in which hazardous forms of child labour thrive.

Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Development and Poverty, Economy, Education, Labour, New, Social Issues |

Invisible little workers

Child working at brick kiln. Picture courtesy: http://archives.dawn.com/archives/26281

By Zubeida Mustafa

JUNE 12 was Day against Child Labour. It is a shame that we still have to observe such a day. But we must if we have to make our society less insensitive towards children.

On this occasion, Sparc, which has been struggling since 1992 for the protection of the rights of the child in Pakistan, launched a weeklong campaign focusing on child domestic labour. It demands a ban on it. This is a laudable move though the strategy needs to be well-thought-out.

As is the case in Pakistan, anomalies abound. First of all, we do not even have reliable data. How many children are there in the labour force? The government has not conducted a survey to collect information since 1996 when it stated that three million children were working in the country. Today various agencies give much higher numbers which range between 10 and 12 million (the International Labour Organisation and Unicef, the UN children’s agency). Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Education, Human Rights, Labour |

Remembering Baldia victims

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week the 13th Akhtar Hameed Khan Development Forum came as a timely reminder of the injustice befalling the workers in a country where it is a crime to be poor. The forum focused on the Baldia fire tragedy, which has almost faded from public memory.

Now an annual Karachi landmark, the forum commemorates the philosophy and work of that iconic development theorist-cum-activist, whose insight into human nature and society was profound. Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan’s message of self-reliance and a participatory approach to development is most relevant today and has been kept alive by the Orangi Pilot Project, Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI) under the able stewardship of its director Parveen Rahman. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Human Rights, Labour, Media, Social Issues |

Why no social security?

By Zubeida Mustafa

THERE was a time when it was widely believed that Karachi’s roads were paved with gold. Anyone who came here could make a fortune — even if it was a small one.

This may have been true to an extent when the pace of industrialisation was fast and urbanisation slow. The trickle of labour from the countryside was easily absorbed into the formal employment sector.

The situation has now changed totally. This stark reality emerged painfully at a conference held earlier this month in Karachi.

Jointly organised by the Pakistan Study Centre and Piler (Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research), the event was designed to commemorate three decades of Piler’s fine work for the rights of labour. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Economy, Human Rights, Labour |

Child labour in the home

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

IN June, ILO adopted Convention (189) on Decent Work for Domestic Workers that is something historic since it enters the informal sector setting out standards to improve the condition of those working in a household or caring for families.

In Pakistan most of such workers are women, unskilled, illiterate and oppressed, hence open to exploitation. But what about the children who work in homes? Continue reading

24 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Labour, Social Issues |

Crushing the working class

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

THE power crisis in Karachi has now begun to paralyse life in this metropolis. The immediate factor responsible is the KESC management’s failure — or is it unwillingness? — to negotiate an agreement with its workers.

I will not go into the details — 4,500 workers were recently put in the surplus pool while 6,000 untrained men were reportedly recruited on contract. KESC’s troubles are symptomatic of the bleak state of the labour sector in the country. With the national economy in the doldrums (having recorded a growth of less than three per cent this year) expectations are not high. We know who is being hit by this economic catastrophe.
Continue reading

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