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Solidarity Center programs in Pakistan seek to boost union effectiveness in improving conditions for Pakistani workers and their families.

Women workers learned about sexual harassment laws at a Solidarity Center Trade Union Female Forum (TUFF). Photo: Solidarity Center

For more than a decade, Pakistan was rocked by an ongoing cycle of natural and man-made disasters, including earthquakes, cyclones, flooding, militancy and armed confrontations. Despite the challenges, the percentage of the population below the national poverty rate fell from 34.7 percent in 2002–2003 to 13 percent in 2011-2012. Still, an estimated 23 million Pakistanis today live on only $1.25-$1.50 per day and 73.6 percent of non-agricultural workers are employed in informal economy jobs, where they have no minimum wage or social protections.

For the first time in Pakistan’s 66-year history, a democratically elected civilian government in 2013 completed its term of office followed by elections that paved the way for the country’s first peaceful transfer of power to a new civilian government. Although fragile, democratic governance and constitutional supremacy are winning increasing support.

Pakistan’s labor movement, although still in its early stages of growth, remains one of the largest independent segments of civil society. Lack of financial resources and training limit the union movement’s reach, and Solidarity Center-supported efforts seek to bolster its capacity. Solidarity Center programs include: education; research; training and human resource development; coalition strengthening; and access to regional and international networks and expertise.

The Solidarity Center also builds the capacity of young male and female labor leaders to take part in union organizing, union building and legislative advocacy. With an increasing number of female lawmakers and women active in political campaigns, the Solidarity Center has recently piloted a program to bring together female labor activists in the Trade Union Female Forum (TUFF). Women parliamentarians are taking dynamic and effective roles in Pakistan, and TUFF will enable women activists to learn how to better assist unions in political advocacy. The Solidarity Center also facilitates bipartite and tripartite social and legislative dialogue involving labor, business and government.

With child labor widespread in Pakistan, the Solidarity Center seeks to introduce a holistic approach to address child labor and lack of decent work, one that takes into account the needs and obligations of workers and their families, employers, local and international donors and the government. Pakistan’s confusing laws on minimum employment age are often ignored, and the number of working children is estimated to range between 3 million and 10 million.

In addition, the Solidarity Center-backed LabourWatch website tracks labor-related issues in Pakistan and includes multimedia content, such as expert interviews on union building, labor laws and labor-related documentaries.

World Day Against Child Labor: A Focus on Pakistan’s Brick Kilns.  June 12, 2013—The persistence of child labor—more than 215 million children toil worldwide, some half of whom are exposed to hazardous environments and suffer forced labor and prostitution—is a global shame, one highlighted each June 12 on World Day Against Child Labor.

Pakistan Federations Seek Unification for Stronger Worker Voice. May 28, 2013—Recognizing that “the challenges confronting the working men and women in Pakistan cannot be effectively” addressed without a strong and united workers’ voice, the Pakistan Workers Federation and eight other union federations are seeking to unify their organizations.

Report Examines Garment Factory Fires in Bangladesh, Pakistan. March 15, 2013—A new report examining two massive fires at garment factories in Bangladesh and Pakistan last year found the deaths and injuries were “caused or exacerbated by illegal, unsafe buildings, faulty electrics or machinery, poor safety procedures and avoidable hazards such as blocked or inadequate fire exits.” 

Pakistan: Nearly 6 Million Children under 10 Are Child Laborers. June 12, 2012—Almost 12 million children, half below the age of 10, are employed as child laborers across Pakistan, and the number is growing, reports the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), a longtime Solidarity Center partner.

Solidarity Center Launches Pakistani Labor Web News Portal. January 18, 2012—The Solidarity Center has launched its latest online venture, a web portal aimed at disseminating news about issues that affect Pakistani workers to a global audience.

Learn More

  • ITUC 2013 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights in Pakistan 
  • Pakistan Workers' Federation monthly newsletter

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