Why would a family put a child to work?

Asad’s father is a daily wage laborer without any skills. Every morning he goes to the city center after dropping his seven-year old son off at the machine shop where Asad works.

The city center is the spot from where people hire unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. The skilled and semiskilled sit separately, with the semi-skilled displaying their tools/implements next to them. If you are looking for someone to paint a wall you will go to the people who are sitting next to their brushes and allied tools. If you are looking for unskilled labor, you look for the youngest and strongest. The old and the weak sit there, without work, until sunset.

The good thing about waiting there, even if no job is offered, is that it is traditional for those who are blessed and can afford it to provide free food to those who wait in return for blessings for a loved one who has passed away or for a new born child, or for a recently married couple, or some other loved one. This is due to the belief that the blessings of the poor and needy are never rejected by God. Also it is said that, if you share your food with a poor person, God will never let you go hungry.

But there are also days when no blessings are requested and the unemployed laborers have to go without food and work.

Asad’s father says, had he been skilled, it would not have been so difficult for him.  His family cannot pay the fees to send Asad to school.  By working he will make some money for the family, and it will also keep him busy and less vulnerable to recruitment by criminal or terrorist elements.  Lastly, he will learn skills and not have to go home with no money and an empty stomach.