KARACHI - A two-day international conference titled “Labour in the Age of Globalisation”, started at the Karachi University’s Arts Auditorium on Wednesday. The conference is jointly organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and the Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi. It is a part of a series of events/interactive sessions being organised all through the year to mark thirty years of PILER, a research, education and advocacy institute focusing on labour rights.The conference has participation from national, regional and international academics, experts on social and workers’ issues along with trade union bodies and labour rights advocates. The purpose of the conference is to put into perspective contemporary challenges facing labour and the links and influences of regional and international developments on shaping the direction of the workers struggle. Key speakers of the conference include Prof Dr Jan Breman, Professor Emeritus, University of Amsterdam; Dr Amrita Chachhi, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague; Dr Kaiser Bengali, Senior Economist; Dr Rubina Sehgal, Independent Researcher; and Dr Asad Saeed, Senior Researcher Collective of Social Science Research. At the inaugural session of the conference, KU Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Mohammed Qaiser was the chief guest. In his keynote address, Prof Dr Jan Breman said deprivation of the poor was being overlooked even at the state level. “Nobody has any concern to see how the labourers live and in what circumstances. The state has lost its legitimacy because of its dismal failure to provide care for the laboring poor,” he added. Breman said inequalities were growing in Pakistan. In larger parts of the world, including Pakistan, people were pushed out of agriculture, the primary sector of production. They were already landless, land fragmentation had triggered off a large-scale land flight, he added. “People are not only driven out of agriculture, in which they had remained rooted from generation to generation, but are also forced to leave their rural habitat in search of a better livelihood elsewhere,” he remarked. He said he was on a visit to the state of India for a research study where “he found a growing number of paupers, those who have grown old and lost the power to work. Even though it was difficult to find the labour for youth, it is even very difficult to find job in old age”. Dr Breman said, according to a news report, a person committed suicide by self-immolation in Sindh because he did not find a job. These issues themselves are enough to understand the situation in which rural people live without basic facilities, as compared to other citizens enjoying better lifestyle. Similarly, Jan said, “Pakistan’s industrial hub of Karachi had become a theatre of horrendous violence, a nightmare, fuelled by a mix of political rivalry, ethnic strife and religious intolerance. It is happening because the state in Pakistan has lost its legitimacy, its dismal failure to provide care for the laboring poor.” KU Vice-Chancellor Dr Qaiser said that globalisation was not a new phenomenon and traced back to the emergence of trade capital in the 17th and 18th centuries. “The current phase of globalisation has been so domineering and powerful that it has totally transformed the world at the macro-level and the lives of the individuals, at the micro-level.” He announced on the occasion that he would take up the matter with the KU Syndicate to establish a separate chair on Labour Rights at the varsity. Three books printed by Pakistan Study Centre were also launched on the occasion. Karamat Ali, the PILER director, in his welcome address, briefed the participants about the aims and objectives of the conference, and said the government had put labourers to face inequality. It is important to discuss the problems facing by labour class in the institutes like Karachi University to inspire the young researchers and students to learn about the marginalized citizens. Later, during the first session of the conference, veteran town planner and architect Arif Hasan gave an overview about urban development bias towards poor. He said it seemed the poor in the new development paradigm do not have any value. “Development schemes in poor localities are more substandard than the development schemes in posh localities. Poor are getting substandard water, inadequate sanitation, insufficient health and education facilities for which they are entitled as a citizen.” The speakers of the other sessions included Faisal Siddiqui, Farid Awan, Manzoor Razi, Lateef Mughal Akeela Naz and others.