home-based Workers Sought:
KARACHI, April 11: Rights
activists at a convention on Monday demanded that the
government formulate a national policy for home-based
workers (HBWs) and legislate to recognize them as
workers so that they also benefited from various social
welfare schemes of the government.
They were speaking at the first convention of the
Home-Based Women Workers Federation, organized jointly
by the Homenet South Asia, Labour Education Foundation
and Homenet Pakistan at the Arts Council.
A number of HBWs from various parts of
the country, rights activists, Sindh labour and women
development ministers, delegates from Nepal and India
participated in the programme.
The speakers highlighted the need for
ratification of the International Labour Organization's
Convention 177, which relates to HBWs.
Although the government had fixed Rs7,000
as minimum monthly wages for unskilled workers, the HBWs
despite being skilled did not receive even that, they
said. Besides, they added, the HBWs were more vulnerable
to exploitation as they didn’t
have job security and medical and other facilities.
Sindh Labour Minister Amir Nawab said
that in the current situation when regular workers did
not get their due rights, the condition of HBWs was
grimmer in the absence of job security. While workers
struggling for their rights in other countries won
privileges over the years, their rights in this part of
the world were curtailed, he said, citing the example of
Industrial Relations Ordinance (IRO). He said that many
of the rights that workers had under the IRO-1969 were
curtailed under the IRO-2002, which was promulgated by
retired General Pervez Musharraf.
The minister urged the people in general
and workers in particular to strengthen democracy,
insisting that people and workers had more rights in
India, where democracy continued since independence, as
compared to Pakistan where democratic governments had
been sabotaged after brief intervals by repressive
Sapna Joshi, regional coordinator of the
Homenet South Asia, said that industrialists,
particularly those in the developing countries of the
South Asia, were shifting work from their factories to
homes for maximum profits.
They had hired middlemen or contractors
to get their work done, shrugging off their duties as
industrialists to their workers who subsequently had
lost job security, medical and other benefits.
Tracing the history of her organization,
she said the Homenet was set up in South Asia in 2000
keeping in view the exploitative conditions under which
home-based workers work. She said the NGO had been
trying to organize HBWs and lobbying with governments to
legislate to safeguard their rights.
Draft policies ready:
She said that currently draft national policies
regarding HBWs had been prepared in Sri Lanka, Nepal,
Pakistan and India and were under discussions by the
stakeholders and being fine-tuned and hopefully proper
legislation safeguarding HBWs rights would be in place
Ms Joshi said since the issues being
faced by HBWs in the region were almost identical she
would suggest to HBWs to forge unity and organize
themselves at the regional levels so that they could
raise their issues effectively.
Nepal Homenet chief Om Thapaliya said
that there were over 17 million workers in Nepal and
around 2.2 million of them were HBWs. Most of the HBWs
were women, who remained unorganized and thus vulnerable
to exploitation, he said.
He said minimum wages in Nepal were
Rs6,100 (Nepalese rupees) a month but most HBWs hardly
made around Rs1,700 by the end of month. He said that
the HBWs were not even considered workers in the eyes of
the law so they could not benefit from any social
security schemes of the government.
Nasir Mansoor of the Labour Education
Foundation said that definitions of workers, employers,
workplace, etc as prescribed in the archaic labour laws
needed to be updated, revised and changed particularly
keeping in view the new phenomenon of the HBWs.
He cited the example of footballs
prepared by HBWs that fetched over $50 million to the
country. He explained that for each football that was
sold for around Rs10,000 in developed countries, HBWs
received between Rs100 and Rs150.
He said that hardly 10 to 15 per cent per
cent of the world’s population living in developed
countries controlled over 90 per cent of the resources
and people of the developing countries, having fewer
resources, remained divided on the basis of ethnicity,
regionalism, religion, sects etc and were vulnerable to
He regretted that the delegates from
Bangladesh could not come as the Pakistani high
commission there did not issue visas to them.
Ume Laila, Homenet Pakistan chief, said
that there were around 73 labour-related laws in
Pakistan but none of them was relevant to HBWs. Their
number was increasing in the region due to economic
factors, she said, adding that inflation, which used to
increase on a yearly basis, was now rising on a monthly
According to her, approximately 84 per
cent people lived under the poverty line that means they
were earning less than $2 a day.
Sindh Women Development Minister Tauqeer
Fatima Bhutto, delegates from Nepal Apsara Maharjan and
Bindu Shrestha, Zehra Khan of the HBWWF, Parveen Sakhi
from Quetta, Zubaida Awan and Perveen Akhar from Punjab,
Anny Yunius, Rafiq Baloch, Khalid Mehmood, Shafiq Ghauri,
Irfana Jabbar, Saira Feroz and others also spoke.