The Asia Regional Child Labour (ARC) Project

Funded by Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, (UK), the ARCL Programme aims at assisting the ILO constituents and other stakeholders in Pakistan to eliminate child labour in particular the worst forms of child labour, which in turn contributes to the achievement of SDG 8.7 by 2025.

At a glance

The ARC Project aims at reducing vulnerability to child labour and enhancing protection of children from exploitation in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan to contribute to the eradication of child labour, particularly its worst forms


Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Provincial Departments of Labour and Human Resource Development, Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Ministry of Commerce, Bureau of Statistics (federal and provincial), Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, Provincial Departments of Social Welfare, Child Protection Bureaus, Provincial Departments of Women Development, Employers' and Workers' Organizations, UNICEF and other UN agencies, Civil Society Organisations, Research organization, Media and Academia.

Target beneficiaries
Children in child labour and their families, relevant ministries and provincial departments, employers' and workers' organizations and enterprises

Geographical focus
Nationwide in Pakistan

Background and objectives

The Pakistan Labour Force Survey 2017-18 reported 13.7 per cent of children aged 10-17 years as being engaged in child labour. Of them, around 5.4 per cent were involved in hazardous child labour1. The on-going Child Labour Survey in the provinces and territories will generate evidence on child labour at provincial level that can guide and support the improvement of legal and policy frameworks.

Pakistan has ratified UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, (1989), as well as the ILO Conventions on Minimum Age for Employment, No. 138 (1973), the Worst Forms of Child Labour, No. 182, (1999) and integrated elimination of child labour into National Labour Protection Framework (NLPF). Pakistan is signatory to Sustainable Development Goals and SDG 8.7 that requires member states of the UN to “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate , end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers by 2025”. The Employment of Children Act (1991) prohibits the employment of children in any occupation, establishment or hazardous processes, except for the processes, carried out alongside family as a business, or in any Government recognized (training) school. The federal laws apply in Baluchistan that has not yet enacted the relevant laws2.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa adopted Child Labour Policy (2018) and accompanying laws including the Prohibition of Employment of Children Act (2015) and the Free Compulsory Primary and Secondary Education Act (2017), making education free and compulsory for children aged 5 to 16 years. The Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Act (2016), restricts employment of children (under the age of 14 years) at brick kilns and Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act (2016), sets 15 years as the minimum age for employment in any type of establishment and restricts the employment of adolescents (above 15 and under 18 years) in any hazardous work. Punjab Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Amendment Act (2018) increased penalties for employing bonded labourers and strengthened protection for the victims of boned labourer including children. The Punjab Domestic Workers Act (2019) sets 15 years as the minimum age for domestic work and allows 'light work' or part-time work for persons above 15 and under 18 years. The light work means an activity that does not negatively impact health, security or education of person. The law sets 18 years as the minimum age for domestic work.

Sindh and Gilgit Baltistan enacted the Prohibition of Employment of Children Act in 2017 and 2019 respectively, establish 14 years as the minimum age for employment and 18 as the minimum age for hazardous work. The Acts allow light work for adolescents aged between 14 years and under 18 years, as long as it takes place alongside a family member, for a maximum of two hours per day, for acquiring skills, in a private or government school. Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prohibition of Child Labour and Regulation of Labour at Brick Kilns Act, (2017) prohibits the employment of child (under age 14 years) at brick kilns. The Federal Government enacted the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act (2018) and set up Anti-trafficking units of the Federal Investigation Agency and a Child Helpline. Provincial Child Protection Units take custody of children at risk and street children and provide them with food, counselling, health care, education and recreation, and cater to their other needs.

The ARC Project is designed to help eliminate child labour, particularly its worst forms, in Asia and contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7. The project aims to reduce vulnerability to child labour and enhance protection of children from exploitation by achieving the following three outcomes/objectives:
  1. Building a credible knowledge base on the causes and drivers of child labour and effective interventions to address them
  2. Aligning legislation and policies with international conventions on child labour, forced labour and trafficking in persons and enforcing and implementing
  3. Developing and applying a holistic approach to eradicating child labour, particularly its worst forms, in selected regions of each country

Main activities

  • Producing data and knowledge on child labour, its drivers and causes to inform policies and programmes
  • Building the capacity of national and provincial bureaus of statistics to collect data on child labour prevalence and trends through regular Labour Force Surveys
  • Engaging with Government, social partners, civil society and media to advocate for the alignment of legislation and policies with international conventions on child labour
  • Building the capacity of stakeholders for the enforcement of relevant laws
  • Strengthening community level Child Labour Monitoring Systems combined with the convergent delivery of social protection services for families vulnerable to child labour through engaging with workers organizations, civil society and local public administration
  • Advocating with businesses and enterprises to eliminate child labour from supply chains
  • Implementing awareness raising activities for families and children through workers organizations and civil society
  • Piloting interventions to create child labour-free zones, improvement of law enforcement and enhancement of public awareness