Bonded Labor: Is it Increasing? - November 20, 2011

Bonded labour, prohibited under Article 11 of the Constitution, is quite rampant in the rural areas and especially the agriculture sector and brick kilns. It is usually described as modern day slavery. To meet the constitutional requirements, government has also enacted a law namely the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act in 1992, which declared all exploitative service arrangements as illegal, especially when these arrangements are tied to loans, or advances. The problems of bonded labor exists for not only men and women but also children and most of the child domestic workers are bonded laborers. The estimates are that number of bonded workers in the country are over one million however exact estimates are not available it can’t be said with certainty whether bonded labor has increased or fallen over the last few years. Although data reliability is an issue, but it can be said with certainty that recent calamities like 2005 earthquake, 2010 flash floods, internal displacement in the tribal areas; all these factors must have led to an increase in the bonded labor. The most common forms of bonded labor are found in agriculture sector (sharecropping), brick-making, domestic work and begging. District vigilance committees were also to be set up under the act. In most of districts, these committees have not been formed and where they are, these are not active. Government needs to strengthen the labor inspection to check whether workers are subjected to conditions of bonded labor or they are being treated with dignity. For more information on bonded labor, please follow our article under labor law menu.

Punjab Labor Department, in a move to tackle the issue of bonded labor, has provided Rs. 58.22 million as interest free microcredit to 3,047 brick kiln workers in Districts of Lahore and Kasur. The funding was meant for elimination of bonded labor, child labor and exploitation of workers. Punjab labor department, at different brick kilns in these two districts, has organized free health camps and these have benefitted around 1300 workers. Similarly, free education is being provided to children of brick kiln workers.

Source: Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2011.