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

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.