Skilling Labour

Published in Dawn on July 26 2016

WORLD Youth Skills Day on July 15 went by quietly in Pakistan. There was no fresh resolve, nor any policy announcement by the government for ‘skills development to improve youth employment’ — the UN theme of the year — though it would have been an opportune moment to share recommendations of the task force on the national technical and vocational education and training policy the government formed in May 2014.

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Youth Challenge

The stars above us, govern our conditions.— Shakespeare

Azam Khan, an 18-year-old, works in a boutique in Karachi for 10 hours as an errand boy and earns Rs12,000 a month. Shy and soft-spoken, he thinks it is the stars that determine one’s life path. “What can I aspire to? I have no education. Jo naseeb mein hai [whatever destiny has in store]…” he mumbles. He comes from Shangla, one of the most deprived districts in Pakistan. He is the lad who irritates the policymakers and the politicians because he has no story to tell — no story of hope, no story of reaching out for the stars, no story of ‘youth creativity and energy’, the phrase our policy documents on youth bulge and youth dividend are full of.

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Labour Rights in Pakistan: Expanding Informality and Diminishing Wages

This research report was written for the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) in 2011. 

The report highlights the absence of pro-labour strategies in the country’s economic design. It also highlights the destruction caused by the floods in 2010 and 2011. Consequently, the poor face further deprivation and 2.5 million affectees remain deprived of access to food, water, shelter and healthcare facilities. The flood affectees and working poor of the country do not have decent employment and the state has failed in rehabilitating them. The situation is worsened by an economic policy that relies heavily on exports.

Click the link below to view the full report:

Labour Rights in Pakistan: Expanding Informality and Diminishing Wages

Labour and State Institutions

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Labour relations, or industrial relations, refer to a system of governance of interaction between employers, workers and the state. Based on the concepts that set the ground rules for governance of a tricky relationship between two unequal partners — employers and workers — labour relations are worked out under a body of legislation and administrative procedures mediated and implemented by the state. The role of the state is crucial in determining the direction and the policies of labour relations.

Let’s begin with the Labour and Human Resources Department, Sindh which carries out eight tasks related to labour relations (law enforcement, dispute resolution, labour courts, social security, vocational training, facilitation of employment, minimum wage fixation, labour welfare) through seven attached departments. The Directorate of Labour is one of the seven departments and is entrusted with the tasks of trade union registration, determination of collective bargaining agents, settlement of industrial disputes and enforcement of labour laws.

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Missing trade unions

Published in Dawn on June 16 2014

FOR the cynic, or for a gleeful employer, the trade union is a dying breed, perhaps already dead; for a die-hard optimist, the trade union — like a phoenix — is arising from its own ashes. But dead or alive, trade unions are definitely evolving into newer shapes. Driven to the wall in the current cut-throat, neo-liberal, capitalist era, trade unions are fighting precarious employment and multinational corporations by banding together across the globe.

However, it is not the first time that trade union bodies are coming together. Major international trade union federations had emerged in Europe and the US after the Second World War to claim their rights from the state and national capitalists. Now their adversaries are the powerful multinational corporations and financialised capitalism. Since the beginning of the 21st century, international trade union federations are realigning themselves as global unions and reaching out to workers across continents.

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Road Transport Workers in Pakistan

This research report was written for Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Karachi and was published in 2006.

This study presents an overview of road transport sector work environment, labour relations and working conditions and examines workers’ response to address some of the issues relating to social security through collective action. Methodology includes literature review and assessment through informal discussions with a select number of transport workers/operators, representatives of transport workers’ unions/organizations/federations, and private transport companies.


Mustachioed, grim-faced, 44-year-old Najibullah Khan is on the road for the last 29 years. He works  as a driver on long distance route—Karachi to Islamabad. “I get Rs. 1500 per trip. A trip takes 26-27 hours. I make about 6 trips a month and that adds up to Rs. 9000 per month”. Born in a village in Musakhel, Mianwali, Najib dropped out of school after class 6 and was pushed into the labour market as a child. Initially he worked as bus cleaner and helper. When he got his license at 18, he took to driving. In 1973 he came to live in Karachi where he shares a rented accommodation with another person. 

Najib’s family members (parents, wife and 5 children) work as sharecropper in the village. These days he is paying a monthly installment of Rs. 1000 to the money lender for a loan of Rs. 10,000 he took to help his family buy agricultural inputs. “There is one more driver along with me in the bus, and we take turns after 4-5 hours of driving, taking 2-3 hours rest in between. After each trip I am off the bus for 24 hours and busy with maintenance of the vehicles and carry out related errands. I get little time to spend with my family whom I visit fortnightly.” For Najib, there are no holidays, no medical or other facilities and no social security.

Click on the link below to view the full report:

Road Transport Workers in Pakistan