Pakistan is unsafe on many levels, and the working environment of most jobs even fails to meet the lowest bar of health and safety regulations. Labour laws are virtually non-existent, as is evidenced by the explosion in a fireworks factory in Karachi that took place on Tuesday, which led to the death of five children and wounded six. The children that died were no bystanders, but employees, hired by the owner on less than a third of the minimum wage, with a single adult guard to supervise, while the doors of the factory were kept locked from the outside to ensure that everyone was working.

This was not the only incident which led to the death of children on the job. A 14 year old house maid was burnt and tortured in Lahore last month; one of the few cases that the public does know about, which only makes one wonder just how many are slipped under the rug on a daily basis. Employers’ think of themselves as masters, with little or no check on how they deal with those they have hired. Concepts such as fixed working hours, overtime salary and the employers responsibility to look to the wellbeing of their employees are unheard of.

There are two problems at work here; the lack of proper guidelines for a working environment, and the obvious prevalence of child labour in Pakistan’s economy that acts as a reserve labour army. For any jobs that have little or no incentive or are too menial for anybody else to do, children are hired for a very minimal wage. It is too simplistic to merely state that child labour needs to end in Pakistan. The government must present a workable, incentivised counter narrative and lifestyle to parents that depend on these children for money and do not believe that education is worth their while. Alongside this, workplace conditions must improve or we can count on more such barbaric incidents occurring.