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May 20, 2015

Call to end workers’ exploitation

Lahore

 
May 20, 2015

LAHORE
There is a dire need for creation of job opportunities for Home Based Workers (HBWs) and other women in informal sector, introduction of liveable wages for them, policies that support the informal sector and skills training for women worker so that they can find better employment.
Besides, women workers should also have access to public transport and direct access to market so that they can get good price for their products.
The role of middleman shall also be redefined and the system of contracts be introduced to end exploitation of workers in informal sector.
According to a press release issued here Tuesday, these recommendations were made at the “Dialogue on Informal Economy: Its existence and evidence based issues” organised by an NGO on Tuesday. The dialogue managed with the support of UN Women brought stakeholders together so that they could discuss the trends in the job market, especially women, and find out reasons why most of the jobs had shifted to the informal job market.
At the event, the NGO shared the findings of researches conducted by academia and itself on issues of informal economy and HBWs. The participants said they were there to find possible ways of intervening with the Punjab government on these issues. Besides, they said, they would have to identify means for protecting women in the informal economy and to find possible ways to combat the challenges they faced.
Ume Laila Azhar said the recent statistics showed the majority of workers in developing countries earned their livelihood in the informal economy. She said they earned very low pay due to various reasons, including the commissions taken by middlemen, lack of awareness about the worth of their inputs and negotiation skills. Besides, she said, the safety and health of HBWs were important and there should be legislation in this regard. Rahim-ul-Haq, researcher and lecturer at the Center for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG), Forman Christian (FC)

College, dwelled on the concept of full employment versus growth. He said mostly the success of economy is gauged in terms of growth and not in terms of job employment. The focus on growth, he said, resulted in creation of inequalities in society where income disparity was quite high.
Rahim said it was due to this phenomenon that the concept of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development emerged. Iram Shahid, head of Department of Social Work, Lahore College for Women University, gave an overview of HBWs employed in shoe-making sector and told the audience about their exploitation. She said 95 per cent of the HBWs interviewed during the study were not in a position to bargain their wages. Fifty two per cent of them disclosed that no terms and conditions existed to regulate their working and not a single respondent had entered into contact with the employer or middlemen. Iram shared with the audience that due to the changing economic trends, sub-contracting as a cost reduction strategy is becoming a general practice, which has led to the emergence of set of workers known as HBWs. She said as jobs are scarce and opportunities are rare, even families let their women work to supplement their income. Employers also prefer women as HBWs as they can be exploited for not having any other option, she said.
Dr Ghazal Zulfiqar from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) shared the findings of a research carried out in an HBWs’ community in Darogawala. She said she along with students of LUMS visited the area and inquired about the conditions in these women worked. These women, she said, performed embroidery work and had hardly moved out of their houses. Their income was extremely low and the whole eco system in which they worked was not supportive at all. For example, she said their mobility was also restricted for the reason that the transport available to them was not friendly at all. They would become victims of eve-teasing while waiting at bus stops and also after boarding the bus, she added.
Their most urgent demand, she said, was that they should be provided clean drinking water. On children’s education, they simply said it was impossible for them to bear the expenses required for this purpose. Justice (R) Nasira Javed Iqbal, MPA Salma Butt, Haseena Begum, Farzana Butt, Salman Abid, Abdullah Malik, Aima Mehmood, Shahnaz, Dr Zarqa Butt, Dr Javed Iqbal Gill and others were also in the consultation.