09 July 2011

Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment of Child Labour in Deep-Sea Fishing, fish processing and Shipbreaking in Gadani area of Baluchistan

Main Findings:

A total of 93 child workers involved with deep sea fishing and fish cleaning processing from Gadani in coastal region of Balochistan, as well as 21 adult workers from the fisheries sector, who had been working since childhood were examined for health and safety risks they face. Another 21 child workers and 4 adults from shipbreaking sector were included in the study.

A control group of 40 school-going non-working children from the same localities as the working children were also examined. The data of health and safety indicators of working children was compared with that from control group.

  • The male child workers in fisheries were involved as helpers to collect the fish catch from the nets and store it before it is transported back to harbour. The female child workers were involved in fish cleaning for domestic use as well for sale in the market. The child workers in the shipbreaking sector were involved as helpers to the skilled adult workers and did cleaning, manual handling, drilling, spray painting hammering and other jobs.

  • All the workers in shipbreaking were immigrants from Punjab or NWFP, while the workers in fisheries belonged to local area.

  • The mean age for starting work in fisheries was 11.6 and for shipbreaking was 13.2 years.

  • The mean experience of child respondents in fishing sector was 3.8 years while the child workers in shipbrekaihng sector had mean experience of 3.5 years.

  • The average family size of working children in fishing and shipbreaking was 7.49 and 7.48 respectively, while it was 7.30 for the control group.

  • The respondent children from fisheries with single parent alive were 10.8%, while from shipbreaking and control group these were 14.3% and 7.5% respectively.

  • A majority of child workers in both sectors used tobacco or other chewing/smoking products.

  • Majority of child respondents (51% in fisheries and 66% in shipbreaking) had never attended school, others had dropped out from primary classes.

  • Majority of the children in both sectors observed 10-12 or more hours of work a day. The work routine in case of fishing was very tough and most of the time the workers had to keep awake.

  • All the children in ship-breaking sector, lived with other male coworker sin dilapidated shacks constructed from salvaged packing materials, while the fisheries workers also lived in one-room shacks or rooms with their parents or relatives.

  • Most of the child workers (95%) in fisheries reported disturbed sleep as major health related complaint.

  • Availability of meat in the diet was common and mostly consisted of fish. The diet in the fisheries was unbalanced and depended heavily on fish, with little use of vegetables and pulses. The meat usage pattern was similar in the working and control group children.

  • The ratios of health complaints described by working and control group children was very similar.

  • The height and weight when compared across the same age groups, were similar for the working and control group children.

  • Personal hygiene of the child workers in both sectors was very poor compared with control group.

  • The ratios of anaemia, palpable lymph nodes, and worm infestation were similar in the control group as well as the working from both sectors.

  • The incidence of respiratory diseases and disorders (pain chest, cough, dysponea) was similar in the working children and the control group. The ratios increased dramatically in the adults.

  • A sizeable proportion of working children and adults suffered from skin problems (cuts/bruises and burns)), which were not found in the control group children. Many of the children in fisheries were found with skin discoloration due to fungal infections, many had festering skin lacerations on the legs.

  • The ratios of musculo-skeletal disorder like low back pain, pain neck and shoulder and generalized body weakness were high in the working children from both sectors, than the control group, these ratios further increased in the adults.

  • The adults from both sectors showed symptoms of dehydration and urinary tract infections caused by excessive water loss due to heat stress in their work as well as due to low consumption of water and unsanitary toilet conditions.

  • Incidence of Oral submucosal fibrosis was very high (29%) in child workers and 333.3% in adult workers in fisheries. This was attributed to excessive use of betel and chemical products (Gutka) chewn by these workers to keep themselves awake.

  • Incidence of conjunctivitis of the eye (due to allergens and irritants in the workplace or poor hygiene) was high in the working children than the control group. Similarly 24.7% of working children from fisheries and 17% of adults in fisheries and 25% from shipbreaking suffered from trachoma, a painful and dangerous eye disorder.

  • Abdominal pains, motions and tenderness in abdomen were common in the working children and adults.

  • Workplace assessment indicated high exposure to toxic, and life threatening hazards in the shipbreaking sector and chronic health problems in the fisheries sector.

Report of research study by the Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions & Environment (CIWCE).
Labour & Human Resource Department Government of the Punjab, Lahore
July 2003

Author: Saeed Ahmed Awan

Author Affiliation:
Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions & Environment (CIWCE), Lahore Pakistan

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