November 6, 2023


November 6, 2023


The report ‘GSP+ and Compliance with Fundamental Labour Standards’ was prepared and recently published by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development with technical support from ILO. A summary of key and specific recommendations (mainly focused on legislative and administrative reforms) is presented here for the government, decision-makers and industry stakeholders to get a deep insight of Pakistan’s current compliance with the fundamental labour rights and essential reforms at legislative, administrative and industrial levels. These recommendations are based on the observations made by the ILO Committee of Experts on Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR).

Qualification for the EU GSP+

A country with the following criteria is eligible for GSP+

  1. The country must be considered ‘vulnerable’
    • Not classified by the World Bank as high or upper-middle income country during three consecutive years preceding the update of the list of beneficiary countries
    • Its imports to the EU are concentrated in few products (seven largest sections of its GSP-covered imports into the EU represent more than 75% in value of its total GSP-covered imports
    • Its imports to the EU are low (its GSP-covered imports into the EU represent less than 6.5% in value of the EU’s total GSP-covered imports from all GSP beneficiaries)
  2. The country must ratify all 27 core international conventions related to human and labour rights and environment and good governance
  3. Monitoring bodies under these core conventions must not identify a serious failure to the effective implementation of these 27 conventions
  4. The country must not have formulated any reservations prohibited by the relevant conventions or that is identified to be incompatible with the purpose of the convention
  5. The country must comply with the following “binding undertakings”:
    • Maintain ratification of 27 conventions and ensure their effective implementation
    • Accept without reservation reporting requirements and monitoring and review by the conventions
    • Accept to participate in and cooperate with the EU monitoring procedure

Pakistan’s Labour Rights Status

The most recent GSP+ progress assessment report for Pakistan was published in 2020.

The report identifies that provinces have made some progress in adopting legislation and developing guidelines to support implementation of ILO fundamental conventions. Development of the National Labour Protection Framework by the MOPHRD as well as improvements in child labour are also praised. However, the remaining concerns of the EU are related to areas of rights of collective bargaining and trade unions, wage discrimination, lack of labour inspection systems, occupational health and safety and child, forced and bonded labour in agriculture and mining.

The report highlights that Pakistan requires a comprehensive child labour law that not only covers child domestic workers but also prohibits children under 18 from engaging in hazardous work. Regarding Labour Inspection Convention, it is noted that number of provincial inspectors must be enhanced to conduct regular inspections and carry out legal actions on law violations. Concerning occupational health and safety, some improvement in the legislation is observed but the adoption and implementation is lacking. Lastly, it is recommended that labour conventions must be extended to EPZs and SEZs.

Pakistan’s Compliance with Fundamental Labour Rights – Recommendations

  1. Freedom of Association


  • Federal and provincial legislation must be amended to
    • Allow workers engaged in more than one job to join the corresponding union of their choice, that is, more than one union
    • Ensure that minority unions are able to protect their workers’ interests and have access to check-off facilities
    • Ensure that grounds for disqualification for holding a trade union office are more restrictive and have real connection with qualities of integrity required for the exercise of trade union office
  • Amend definition of workers to include persons involved in intellectual/non-manual, clerical and other work
  • Amend Industrial Relations Act (IRA) and provincial IRAs with regards to
    • Formation of trade unions
    • Minimum membership criteria of 20 per cent for every third and subsequent union
    • (permanent) disqualification from a trade union office because of conviction under the Pakistan Penal Code 1860
  • Allow sectoral or general trade unions, especially in the informal sector


  • Make the Registrar (Trade Unions) Office independent from the National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC)
  • Promote collective bargaining by making the union registration and referendum holding processes easier
  • Require the submission of annual returns by trade unions. Non-compliance should lead to cancellation of registration. Provincial as well as federal Registrars of Trade Unions should devise these annual return forms together in order to collect reliable data
  • The MOPHRD should work with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to include trade union and collective bargaining-related questions in its upcoming labour force survey
  • Arrange industrial relations training for the Registrar of Trade Unions, conciliators and labour inspectors
  • Arrange orientation sessions for workers’ and employers’ organizations on industrial relations legislation and rights and responsibilities of both parties under the law
  • Develop a manual/toolkit on registration of trade unions
  • Ensure the establishment of a Works Council and/or Joint Management Board
  1. Equality of Treatment and Opportunity
  2. Protection of Domestic Workers
  3. Protection Against Harassment
  4. Protection of Minorities


  • Amend the definition of wages in Payment of Wages legislation in all provinces
  • Amend provincial legislation on payment of wages to give full expression to the principle of equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value
  • Amend minimum wage legislation and payment of wages legislation
  • Develop and implement objective job appraisal methods
  • Provide information on any legislative developments regarding Employment and Service Conditions Act (ESCA), or any other legislation that would carry similar mandate
  • Training and awareness raising at the level of minimum wage boards to ensure that the minimum wage setting process is free from gender bias
  • Publish clear data on cases of unequal remuneration or wage discrimination in the Annual Labour Inspection Report
  • Carry out awareness raising activities on promotion of the right to equal remuneration for work of equal value, together with the employers and workers’ organizations
  • Compile data on gender pay gaps (at sectoral and occupational level)
  • Address occupational segregation of females in low paying jobs and occupations through time-bound affirmative action
  • Amend the legislation provisions to ensure these explicitly define and prohibit direct and indirect discrimination, apply to all aspects of employment and occupation, including at the recruitment stage, and cover all workers
  • Amend anti-harassment legislation to protect men against sexual harassment in employment and occupation on an equal footing with women
  • Carry out awareness raising for employers and judges on anti-sexual harassment laws
  • Publish information on implementation of anti-harassment laws including the adoption of internal codes of conduct and the constitution of complaints committees to adjudicate complaints against harassment
  • Raise awareness of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018 among workers, employers, and their respective organizations as well as enforcement authorities
  • Enforce the prohibition of and to eliminate discrimination based on caste and promote their inclusion in the labour market
  • Amend discriminatory legal provisions and administrative measures and to actively promote respect and tolerance for religious minorities
  • Provide information on employment of religious minorities, especially the 5% quota in the public sector
  • Take measures to promote tolerance and equality of opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation for religious minorities
  • Make payment of maternity benefit mandatory through social security system
  • Invest in safe and affordable transport for women, with a focus on female-only transport
  • Increase access to affordable internet and support women by providing training on cyber safety and skills needed for digitally enabled jobs
  • Wage subsidies to support wage employment opportunities for women with educational attainment
  • Invest in childcare support facilities and enforce existing laws related to maternity leave and childcare


  • Enact a standalone anti-discrimination legislation that explicitly prohibits the following: “any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, religion, caste, sex, color, creed, marital status, disability, trade union membership, residence or place of birth, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation.”
  • The law must also require non-discrimination on the ground of contract status as well as working time (full time versus part time), and should require registration of all workers with the social security institutions
  • At a minimum, legislation must carry a clear definition of discrimination and prohibit it on the above grounds
  • Amend legislation, especially the Factories Act and shops and establishments legislation, to remove the restrictive provisions on female participation in workforce
  • Gradually formalize the informal sector through the formulation of policies and legislation for domestic, home-based, construction, agriculture, and digital labour platform workers, among others


  • The Punjab Women Empowerment Packages (2012, 2014, and 2016) need to be emulated by the federal and provincial governments.
  • Encourage women’s labour force participation by extending incentives (tax rebates) to businesses
  • Train the Labour Inspectorate and social partners on different forms of discrimination and legal provisions and international standards concerning discrimination
  • Operationalize gender-sensitive labour inspections, data handling and reporting
  • Recruit female labour inspectors
  • Register informal sector workers with the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and Provincial Social Security institutions (PESSIs) by reducing the contribution rates. The Government must ensure systematic registration of unregistered workers and units through improvement in the labour inspection system
  • Share the cost of maternity leave pay (12 weeks of pay) between employers and the federal and provincial governments in order to raise female labour force participation
  • Initiate baseline studies on compiling and analyzing statistical information on remuneration/wage gaps between men and women across economic sectors and across value chains
  • Develop a knowledge base and scholarship on discrimination in employment and occupation by collaborating with universities and research centers
  1. Elimination of Forced Labour


  • Publish data on investigations, violations, prosecutions and convictions regarding bonded labour and the number of freed bonded labourers in the annual labour inspection report
  • Publish information on combatting bonded labour and supporting freed bonded labourers, including actions taken under the National Strategic Framework
  • Establish and strengthen the Domestic Violence Crisis Services (DVCS)
  • Collaborate with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (and provincial bureaus) and conduct sectoral surveys on bonded labour
  • Publish annual statistics number of investigations, prosecutions, convictions and the specific penalties imposed under PTPA, PSMA and relevant sections of PPC
  • Amend the provisions in selected legislation, either by repealing them, by limiting their scope to acts of violence or incitement to violence, or by replacing sanctions involving compulsory labour with other kinds of sanctions
  • Federal and Provincial Governments to amend respective Essential Services (Maintenance) Acts


  • Enact a standalone legislation on forced and bonded labour in line with the principles of Conventions Nos 29 and 105
  • Rationalize and amend the Bonded Labour System Abolition Acts to incorporate forced labour and raise penalties
  • Harmonize bonded labour legislation with other legislations, for example, the Payment of Wages Act and the Standing Orders Ordinance
  • Develop subsidiary Rules for the amended or newly enacted laws on forced labour


  • Restructure the District Vigilance Committees to make them more effective
  • Train the Labour Inspectorates and District Vigilance Committees to effectively monitor and address issues of forced and bonded labour
  • Conduct bonded labour surveys to gauge incidence of bonded labour in various economic sectors
  • More strictly enforce working time and payment of wages laws by strengthening the labour inspection system
  • Include questions regarding forced labour in the upcoming Labour Force Survey to gauge actual incidence of forced labour in the formal and informal sectors
  • Conduct capacity-building of Provincial Labour Departments in identifying instances of forced labour in the formal and informal sectors (and strive towards gradual formalization of the informal sector)
  • Secure convictions under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1992
  • Bring workers in the formal sector into the social safety net
  • All shops and establishments must be registered and workers’ employment records must be maintained by employers and a designated state department
  • Access to social security institutions (like the ESSI, EOBI and WWF) should not be based on the employment contract status of a worker


  1. Abolition of Child Labour


  • Amend the provincial legislation and raise the minimum age for admission to work to 16 years
  • Amend the Employment of Children Act 1991 and add necessary provisions in draft laws to raise the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 years
  • Amend employment of children legislation and to incorporate the provisions on minimum age for light work for limited hours and the minimum age for engaging a child in light work
  • Hold consultations at federal and provincial level to avail the possibility of excluding the work in family run establishments from the scope of Convention
  • Strengthen the capacity of the labour inspectorate, and to continue providing information on the number and nature of violations relating to the employment of children detected by the labour inspectorate
  • Share results of the provincial child labour surveys as well as the updated information on the Child Labour Surveys which are in progress
  • Provide information on implementation of relevant sections of employment of children legislation in Punjab and Sindh
  • Provide update on the implementation of laws in abolishing bonded labour
  • Provide information on the number of child bonded labourers identified by the DVCs and other law enforcement officials, the number of violations reported, investigations conducted, prosecutions, convictions and penal sanctions imposed
  • Provide and publish updated information on number of cases that relate to the trafficking of children under 18 years of age as well as the number of investigations and prosecutions carried out and penalties imposed
  • Provide and publish updated information on measures taken to identify child victims of trafficking as well as on the measures taken to ensure their rehabilitation and social integration
  • Ensure effective implementation of the prohibition on employment of children legislation and provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code
  • Adopt, amend and revise hazardous works list in consultation with employer and worker organizations
  • Protect children under 18 years of age engaged in the brick kiln industry from hazardous work
  • Provide information on the implementation of the 2016 National Strategic Framework to Eliminate Child and Bonded Labour and its recommendations to eliminate child bonded labour and its impact in eliminating child bonded labour during the last 6 years
  • Provide information on the implementation of any other projects at the provincial level to combat child bonded labour, and to provide information on the results achieved, including the number of children removed from bonded labour and provided assistance, disaggregated by age and gender
  • Provide information on measures taken to provide free basic education to all children
  • Take effective and time-bound measures to protect and withdraw street children from engaging in the worst forms of child labour and provide for their rehabilitation and social integration
  • Publish information on the number of street children benefiting from shelter and other rehabilitative services
  • Enact legislation on domestic work in provinces of Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh
  • Include child domestic labour in the list of hazardous occupations under the employment of children legislation


  • The current Employment of Children Act 1991 needs to be repealed and a new Prohibition on Employment of Children Act must be enacted
  • The new laws enacted in all provinces need to be amended as follows: a. The minimum age for admission to full-time work must be set at 16 years b. The minimum age for light work should be set at 12–14 years and limits on hours for such light work must be set. Similarly, appropriate light work and hours of work for adolescents aged 14–16 must also be specified
  • Formulate a light work list (that is, work allowed for children as young as 12 years)
  • Frame subsidiary rules under the various prohibition of child labour legislation in all provinces


  • Complete child labour surveys and make available accurate and reliable statistics
  • Strengthen the oversight mechanisms at the provincial level (through provincial committees on child labour)
  • Engage in awareness-raising among employers and workers regarding the menace of child labour
  • Extend coverage of legislation to sectors with high incidence of child labour (domestic work, workshops, and so on)
  • Develop model child labour-free districts


  1. Occupational Safety and Health


  • Adopt Occupational Safety and Health law in ICT, GB and AJK
  • Provide information on private auditing firms in the country performing OSH audits
  • Provide information on non-public actors involved in labour inspection, the proportion of labour inspection performed in this manner, and how such non-public actors are being supervised by the Government
  • Raise the level of fines, alone or in combination with other penalties, to a level which is sufficiently dissuasive as a sanction for violations
  • Publish the data on labour inspectors, workplaces liable to inspection and number of inspections conducted, in annual labour inspection reports
  • Strengthen the labour inspection authorities by filing the vacant positions, establishing more offices, providing transport, and imparting training to the labour inspectors
  • The provincial governments must frame necessary rules and start collecting data on fatal, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases on a regular basis
  • Improve the detection and identification of cases of occupational diseases
  • Governments of Punjab and KPK also need to update the list of occupational diseases
  • Amend legislation allowing inspectors to enter, first, freely and without any previous notice, and second, at any hour of the day and night
  • Revise and update the penalties for violation of labour legislation. The fines should be linked with the applicable minimum wage, e.g., Should be two times or four times the minimum wage and so on. Moreover, the minimum penalty for a violation must be equivalent to at least one minimum wage
  • Publish the annual labour inspection report and make it accessible to the public through MOP&HRD’s website. Share the annual labour inspection reports with the ILO
  • The number and percentage of female labour inspectors need to be gradually raised to 20% of the total sanctioned strength of labour inspectors in the country
  • Frame subsidiary Rules for the already enacted OSH laws to facilitate enforcement of OSH provisions
  • Develop and operationalize OSH codes of conduct


  • Update the inspection proforma
  • Redesign the inspection manuals at the provincial level
  • Digitize inspection reporting
  • Strengthen health and safety inspections in all sectors
  • Initiate system-based inspection to improve the OSH situation in the country
  • Provide capacity enhancement of inspection staff in key aspects


  1. Tripartite Consultation and Social Dialogue


  • Determine the most representative organizations of workers and employers
  • Hold Provincial Tripartite Labour Conferences annually
  • Hold regular meetings of the federal and provincial tripartite consultative committees
  • Publish annual reports on the discussions and decisions made at the FTCC and PTCCs level
  • Sensitize employers and workers to the existing provisions in laws promoting bilateral and tripartite social dialogues
  • Expand the membership of the Federal Tripartite Consultative Committee to national level centers/institutes working on labour rights and similar issues 



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