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Thursday, October 22, 1998 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK

World: South Asia

Child labour carpet deal signed

A young carpet weaver who could soon be at school rather than the loom

By Islamabad Correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones

The International Labour Organisation has signed an agreement with some carpet manufacturers in Pakistan to work towards the elimination of child labour in the industry.

The agreement was signed in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and follows a similar deal reached last year in respect of the sports goods industry.

Pakistan says it's committed to the elimination of child labour but a survey conducted two years ago showed that 3.3 million children between the ages of five and 14 are working full time.

It's estimated that 30,000 children work in Pakistan's carpet industry, and on average they earn around $2 a day.

[ image: The ILO has been trying to cut child labour in all South Asian countries]
The ILO has been trying to cut child labour in all South Asian countries
The ILO's agreement with an association of carpet manufacturers is intended to phase out the employment of any child under 14 in the industry.

Instead of working, the children will be given educational opportunities.

At this stage the deal only covers some 8,000 working children in 30 villages, but having already gained experience in the sports goods sector, the ILO says that it is taking a step by step approach and hopes to extend the project in the future.

Carpets are a significant foreign currency earner for Pakistan and the manufacturers are aware that they need to be increasingly sensitive to the ethical requirements of foreign consumers.

Pakistan has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits child labour, but officials argue that it's not easy to enforce the terms of the convention.

Many families have been using children to make carpets for generations, and the fact that the weaving often takes place in people's homes makes it especially difficult to monitor the practice.

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