Ever year on the 1st of May, a universal holiday is declared to commemorate Labour Day; a day to appreciate the working class, and try and look at ways to improve their lot in life. Stratification is seen as inevitable in society, but in Pakistan, the situation is becoming exacerbated by the year, with a ballooning, unchecked population and no political will to address the issues of the poor and the working class.
Historically, May Day led to the establishment of the eight hour work day and setting a minimum wage for workers. Pakistan has these laws, but their implementation is virtually non-existent. Rs. 10,000, the minimum wage in Pakistan, is not nearly enough for a family’s monthly expenses. And sadly, the only thing that comes cheap in this country is labour. Over 40% of Pakistanis are currently living below the poverty line. Bonded labour and child labour are deeply entrenched, and typically defended as culturally appropriate. So, what measures is the government taking to improve the working conditions for the average labourer? Are steps being taken to give them more job security as well as a more stable wage? If the Labour Conference of a week ago was any indication, the government is only increasingly disconnected from the real issues of the working class labourer.
Opposition parties such as the PPP and PTI are using this day to criticize the government and its lack of initiative to alleviate poverty, but this is all the glory of opposition politics. The ability of workers to mobilize and organize for effective action must not be hindered by governments as it constantly has been. There must be mechanisms, formal channels through which the working classes can make demands of the state, and through which workers can challenge the hegemony of the economic elite. For now, its back to business.