LAHORE   -  The Punjab government is going to launch 'Punjab Labour Policy 2018' today with emphasis on simplifying the existing labour legislation, improving its enforcement through revamping inspection, and rationalisation of labour wages with a shift towards living fair wage.

It will be the first policy of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Punjab government on Labour after assuming power in August. According to the policy, a copy of which is  available with The Nation, provincial Labour and Human Resource Department will be focusing on formulating the occupational health and safety of labourers and prioritise ‘gradual elimination of child labour’.

The document is full of plans and promises with a hope of formulating a strategy to protect the labour rights. The provincial government has also pulled up the socks to abolish bonded labour from the province but no roadmap has been given in the policy except establishment of welfare fund against the bonded labours.

The department has committed in document a survey of child labour shall be carried out in order to assist the Bureau of Statistics to assess quantum of labour. According to the policy, Punjab government is going to establish ‘Policy Implementing Unit’ to monitor the implementation of policies in all concerned sectors and for the Labour Market Information and Analysis System is being formulated.

A long-standing problem within Labour Department has also been addressed with the establishment of ‘one-system’ software to bring centralised transparency in inspections by enhancing the supervisory role through online monitoring inspection system.

The Domestic Workers' Policy has been prepared by Labour Department with the assent of the government and now draft legislation on the subject is being finalised after going through a thorough tri-partite consultations through committees. According to document ‘draft legislation to be tabled before the Punjab Assembly within short span of time’, but it did not specify exactly in how many months government will be able to come up with a coherent policy on domestic workers.

“Home-Based Workers' policy” that has been duly approved by the government and the Labour department earnestly believes that a lot more needs to be done for the home-based workers. The policy recommends legal coverage for the workers engaged in construction industry and will ensure that their legal rights and benefits are protected through vigorous inspection.

The government will initiate administrative measures to facilitate women workers at the workplace like establishment of daycare centres, separate washrooms, separate meal places and specific arrangements in notified canteens.

Under the legislation titled as “The Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act, 2016”, light work has been allowed for adolescents (15 to 18 years) but their working in the identified 38 hazardous occupations has also been strictly prohibited.

The Labour Department will incentivise brick kiln owners through preference in procurement of bricks in the public works schemes who are socially compliant and will establish Provincial Bonded Labour Welfare and Rehabilitation Fund.

To counter the most problematic issue child labour, the government is extending the scope of District Vigilance Committees and District Coordination Committees to oversee the emerging cases related to the worst forms of child labour. A fully computerised online functional reporting mechanism shall be put in place so that all child labour reports are received online through an efficient and transparent process. Rehabilitation mechanism for children recovered from the clutches of child is also being set up.

Labour to be undertaken by the Child Protection Bureau and government will focus on enrolling the out of school children involved in child labour. Future implementation strategy shall include drafting of rules under the new passed laws on child labour i.e. the Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act, 2016 and the Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Act, 2016.

In addition, future strategies like Provincial Child Labour Survey (PCLS), imparting quality trainings to the inspectors and social partners, facilitating employers in age verification and extending coverage in formal/informal sectors subject to the availability of human/financial resources shall be pursued. Besides, the on-going policy to periodically upgrade and update the strategy to combat and gradually eliminate child labour shall also continue including effective/result-oriented implementation of above cited laws on child labour.

In the key policy document on Labour policy, government is committed to addressing all the issues related to the welfare of labour force. It claimed that Labour Policy of 2018 depicts a real policy document which provides impetus to move forward in the true sense.

“For a paradigm-shift in the prevailing policies and for visible improvements in the system, there is no reliance on the gimmickry of words and the policy directly addresses bitter realities and social evils like child labour, bonded labour, gender discrimination, gender mainstreaming, labour protection, out of school children and lack of health facilities for the workers etc which stare us in the face even in the 21st century,” according to the new policy.

Labour Policy of 2018 incorporates key thematic areas in a redefined format with primary focus and emphasis on achievement strategies regarding effective implementation of labour standards, social dialogue, improvements in workplace safety, living wages, child and  bonded labour, awareness raising, excellence in labour inspections regime, imparting quality technical trainings through well-improved Training Centres, simplification of labour laws, medical facilities for secured workers even after retirement, establishment of labour colonies and schools for workers' children, efficient disbursement of welfare grants and gradual extension of labour protection frame-work.

Pakistan is the signatory of International conventions including UN Human Rights Declaration and conventions on human rights and International Labour Organization including United Nations Human Rights Declaration, 1948, UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966,UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights, 1966,UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979, UN Convention on Child Rights 1989, UN Supplementary Convention on Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices similar to Slavery 1956, ILO Conventions on workers' rights and 189 conventions of the ILO relating to socio-political and economic rights of the workers at the workplace and beyond are in place for ratification and compliance by its members.

Pakistan had been awarded the GSP+ Status, like all other developing countries, subject to some conditions which involve strict adherence to the 27 International Conventions on Human Rights including the following 8 Core Conventions on labour rights.

Punjab Labour Policy has 18 objectives including improvement in occupational safety and health through capacity development and awareness, rationalization in minimum wages through research and development. One of the main objectives is “Ease of Doing Business Policy” to attract Investment through simplification of rules and procedures under labour laws.