Labor Laws in Pakistan: A Critical Insight

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For centuries, workers had been oppressed and slavery was the rule of the day. Looking at history today, it is not difficult to argue how this was a clear violation of human rights. There was a great disparity in earnings; the rich became richer while the poor could hardly make their ends meet. Child labour was a common practice too. Eventually, Britain abolished slavery throughout its empire with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (with notable exception of the Indian Sub-continent). Slavery was abolished in the Sub-Continent by the East India Company with Indian Slavery Act, 1843. However, Britain introduced a new indentured labour system that scholars suggest was slavery by contract. When the British Crown formally took control of the Indian Sub-continent in 1857, the labour was subjected to cruel working conditions through the enactment of a number of draconian laws.

Since gaining independence from the British in 1947, Pakistan has implemented several labour laws throughout its turbulent political history. Most of the legislations are based on the inherited legal framework of the British, wherein many of the laws have been derived from colonial acts and amendments, and still exist as a part of the country’s labour legislation. Although the British legacy still lives on with these laws, it can be argued that there has been an incremental change in the right direction through redressed efforts in the Pakistani Constitution as well as subsequent amendments to the Acts and Ordinances themselves.

We have made an effort to analyse some of the labour laws critically and suggest a few corrections to address some of the important issues pertinent to these laws.

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