LAHORE - The federal government should adopt the policy of national economic self reliance to tackle the growing unemployment among the 1.8 million youth entering the labour market every year and ensure free and qualitative education to children.

These views were expressed at a seminar on “Proposed Federal Budget and Need for Economic and Social Justice” at Bakhtiar Labour Hall on Wednesday under the aegis of the All Pakistan Workers Confederation. It was addressed by eminent economists Dr Ikram ul Haq, Dr Tahir Pervaiz and Dr Nadia Tahir; veteran journalist I.A. Rehman; veteran trade union leader Khurshid Ahmed and Robina Jamil, Yousaf Baloch, Akbar Ali Khan, Osama Tariq, Chaudhry Anwar, Niaz Khan and Chaudhry Khushi Muhammad Khokhar.

The speakers said, “There are 22 million children who have no access even to primary schools due to poverty of their parents. The government should develop hydel power generation, gas fired thermal power stations and dams in the public sector to provide cheap electricity and water to each citizen and develop the national industry, agriculture and commerce in this era of globalisation of economy. The government should impose taxes on the elite class since 66% of tax money is used to pay heavy debts. The elite class, capitalists, feudal lords, big traders and even some politicians did not pay. Eighty percent of taxpayers are wage earners in the country. The government should introduce economic and social reforms to bring down the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the society. The government should introduce agriculture reforms to ease the plight of the peasants. The government should raise the wages of the workers engaged in the private and the public sector by at least 30 percent, merge ad hoc relief in their basic pay and fix minimum wages at Rs25,000 per month.

The speakers urged the government to develop industrial relations, ensuring dignity for working men and women and healthy and safe work conditions and respect for fundamental rights of the workers. They said that child and bonded labour should be eliminated on a war footing in conformity with international obligations undertaken by ratifying the ILO conventions and fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. They said the preamble of the Constitution called for elimination of exploitation from the society. It also called upon the government to establish a tripartite national productivity council and the national tripartite labour council in order to raise productivity and develop a social dialogue between all stakeholders, including the government, employers and workers. They asked the government to raise the pension under the Old Age Employees Benefit Act 1974 to at least Rs15,000 per month. They asked the government to restore medical facilities for the secured workers under the social security scheme after their superannuation. They asked the government to use Rs1 trillion and Rs67 billion workers welfare funds deposited with the Finance Division for the welfare of the workers and pay the lawful dues of workers pending for the last two years at the earliest.