Low income, poverty, and poor education contribute to the prevalence of child labor worldwide. A considerable proportion of Pakistan’s work force is made up of children including in the transport industry. Vulnerable working children may easily become victims of the violence, abuse and exploitation. To investigate the influence of social and cultural practices on ‘apprenticeship’ of children to commercial driver, one-to-one in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 participants in Pakistan in the cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The participants included policy makers (with responsibility for traffic law), experienced police officers, religious orators, professional drivers (truck, bus and taxi) and general drivers. Professional drivers reported that children from poor families are forced by their families to work in a form of apprenticeship to commercial drivers, initially as helpers, with the expectation they will become commercial drivers in future. These children spend most of time traveling long distances for protracted periods with senior drivers, have little contact with their parents and no longer have the time/opportunity to attend school. Such children are vulnerable to (and routinely exposed to) physical, sexual and psychological violence, and drug addiction while staying with senior drivers, other senior helpers, and auto mechanics. The practices involved in such commercial driving ‘apprenticeship’ during childhood have the potential to cause serious long-term psychological harm to children, including anxiety, depression, and behavioural disorders, which may also negatively impact their driving ability/behaviour once they become commercial drivers themselves. Effective prevention strategies focused on modifying policies, legislative and regulatory measures, cultural practices, and societal norms are needed to protect children from abuse and exploitation in commercial driving. Strategies are also needed to better address institutional capacities for training new commercial drivers, and for addressing the support and treatment needs of psychologically affected drivers.
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