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Approved policy on home-based women workers yet to be enforced

By Anil Datta
October 20, 2017

The policy for home-based workers has been notified by the Sindh government, yet it still has not been implemented on ground. Being a significant portion of the workforce and contributing to the lucrative export sector, the women are still awaiting their right to be registered as workers.

These views were expressed by Ume Laila Azhar, Executive Director, HomeNet Pakistan, an organisation looking after interests of the home-based women workers, while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

The presser, meant to mark the International home-based workers’ day being observed the world over today (Friday), was jointly held by HomeNet and Piler (Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research).

Ume Laila said that worldwide, the workforce in informal sector has not only survived but expanded due to new market forces and technology.

However, she lamented that in Pakistan there was an expanding percentage of part time, irregular, and unstable forms of work with little or no social or economic protection. Today, she said, the home-based workers are a part of the countrywide manufacturing chain yet their importance was being downplayed. The workers are given low value and strenuous tasks such as cropping loose threads, basic stitching, beadwork, packing, and other tedious tasks, she said.

Citing a recent ILO study, she said the home-based workers worked over 12 hours daily, six days a week, and derived a monthly income of just Rs4,342.

Piler Executive Director Karamat Ali said a plan of action for these workers would have to be put in place. Mainstreaming of home-based workers into the national and provincial economies and implementation of the Sindh government’s policy for them would have to be undertaken on an urgent basis otherwise these workers would be left without any protection, said Ali.

“We demand that all laws pertaining to labourers be applied to home-based workers too. They should be brought under the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution and the Employees’ Social Security Net,” he observed.

A minimum wage for women home-based workers should also be stipulated by the government, Ali said, adding, that the government should also look to the human rights of these workers.

“It has not been realised thus far that home-based workers are an important component of the supply chain in the matter of exports.”

Mehnaz Rehman, director Aurat Foundation, said accurate statistics on these workers should be brought to the fore. While so many claims were being made about the relief measures for these workers, there was nothing on the ground to prove the efficacy of these claims, she added.

She also asserted the need to bring these workers under the EOBI and the social security nets. Field Officer of HomeNet, Rehana Yasmin, said, “These workers should come under the social protection mechanism. The Sindh government should utilise their potential for generating revenue for the province and the country.”

She said that Pakistan must fulfil its international commitments, whereas the Sindh government must proactively adopt the due legislation and embark on a door-to-door registration of these workers.

Farhana Naz, a home-based worker, while talking to The News said, “We are living a miserable life and get a mere pittance for working with the sweat of our brow. Our condition is pitiable despite the fact that our work is so decisive in the national supply chain. We urge the government to improve our lot.”