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May 1, 2015

Home-based workers demand a fair deal

Karachi

May 1, 2015

Karachi
Working conditions for home-based workers, particularly in Sindh, are very unsatisfactory and we demand that home-based workers be treated as regular labour and accorded all the benefits that labourers are entitled to.
This, in a nutshell, was the demand of the Home-Based Workers’(HBWs) Network at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday afternoon.
Farhat Fatima of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), said, “We feel that the HBWs, which are an integral part of the economy, are not officially treated as labour, which is unfair. According to ILO conventions and labour laws, a minimum wage has to be fixed for us.”
Nuzhat Shirin, media coordinator of HomeNet Pakistan, citing the ILO Convention No 177, 1996, called for the recognition and mainstreaming of home-based workers, their integration into the national economy, and raising of their visibility, voice, and concerns.
She demanded that, to coincide with the International Labour Day, the government proactively approve and adopt the HBW policy and legislation. She said, “All our complaints were heard but, for the third time in succession, our petition has been entrusted to a commission.”
Malka Khan of the Aurat Foundation said that the government must implement the laws on women HBWs. She said that the government gave no medical cover to home-based women workers, despite their visible role in the economy.
She complained that home-based women workers did not have a minimum wage set up for them because they were not registered as labour, terming it a gross violation of human rights.
Rehana Yasmeen, a home-based worker, complained that for producing 1,000 joss sticks (agarbatti), the producer just received Rs9 despite the fact that the whole family, including the children, was involved in producing the item.
Nuzhat Shirin called for immediately doing away with the institution of the middleman who, she said, pocketed a major share

of the costs, leaving the actual workers who worked with the sweat of their brow with a mere pittance. She demanded that HBWs be linked directly with the market.
Shirin further said that home-based work was global phenomenon found in countries both rich and poor and existed in all sectors of employment, including manufacturing, services, agro-based industry and food, all of which were linked to the formal economy through value chains, supply chains, and local markets.
She lamented that while the services of home-based workers were coming to be recognised the world over, and workers were being given more privileges, in Pakistan, the situation was still the exact opposite.