3-day first South Asia Labour Conference opens: Shahbaz calls for empowering labourers

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LAHORE: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that Pakistan can never achieve progress and prosperity without empowering labourers and that a system in which capitalists and industrialists enjoy the fruits of hard work of labourers while the working class remains deprived of basic facilities cannot sustain. 
According to a handout, the chief minister expressed these views while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the first South Asia Labour Conference, 2014, at a local hotel on Thursday. 
Punjab Labour Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, European Union (EU) Ambassador and Head of Delegation Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director Tine Staermose, Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Federal Secretary Raja Hassan Abbas, and Punjab Labour Secretary Captain (r) Muhammad Yousaf addressed the conference. 
Labour ministers and high commissioners of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, delegates from other South Asian countries, EU and ILO, provincial ministers, elected representatives, officials of various chambers of commerce and industry in Punjab, labour leaders, industrialists and a large number of businessmen were present.
Addressing the opening ceremony, the chief minister said that time had come to take effective measures for the welfare of labourers, as it would help bring about development in trade, agriculture and industrial sectors. He said that Pakistan could achieve its rightful place in the comity of nations only through resorting to practicing honesty and hard work. He said that holding of the first South Asia Labour Conference in the provincial metropolis was a good omen and that it would help formulate an effective policy for the betterment of labourers of regional countries.
Chief Minster Shahbaz said that it was indeed an honour for him to host the maiden conference which would help in exchanging and learning from mutual experiences and formulating concrete suggestions and recommendations for evolving an effective policy for the welfare of labourers. 
He stressed the need to give due respect to labourers and workers through empowering them and providing education and health facilities to their children and families. He said that the Punjab government had taken revolutionary steps for the welfare of labourers, but much was still needed to be done. The chief minister said that the provincial government had provided quality transport facility to the common man, especially labourers, by completing the splendid Metro Bus Project within a record time of 11 months.
He said that the Rs 10 billion Punjab Educational Endowment Fund was ensuring quality education to the children of labourers and poor segments of society in prestigious institutions. He said that the fund was helping over 60,000 students get education inside Pakistan and abroad.
He said that Daanish School System was providing quality education mainly to the children of the working class. He said that the scope of the Punjab Skills Development Programme, launched with the collaboration of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development in four districts of southern Punjab, was being expanded and thousands of youths would be imparted necessary skills to help them hunt appropriate jobs. 
He said an Internship Programme had been initiated under which unemployed youths get a monthly stipend of Rs 10,000 besides training at different industrial institutions.
He said that Ashiyana Housing Scheme had been initiated to provide residential facilities largely to poor and low-income segments of society in different cities of the province. 
Referring to Sri Lanka’s experience in overcoming terrorism and militancy, the chief minister said that Pakistan would soon be made a haven of peace and tranquillity. 
He said empowerment of youth, promotion of economic and commercial activities, progress of women and protection of rights of the people were common challenges for all South Asian nations. 
By holding the first South Asia Labour Conference, he said, the Punjab government had provided a platform where delegates of SAARC countries should formulate a policy to eradicate poverty and unemployment from the region. 

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