Government urged to implement rights of home-based workers | Pakistan Today

Government urged to implement rights of home-based workers

The government should honour its international commitments to recognise labour rights and implement the decisions of the ILO Convention C-177 for home workers and ILO Convention C-189 for domestic workers with letter and spirit to improve the lot of the working community of informal sector in Pakistan, particularly home-based workers (HBW).
This was stated by speakers at a seminar on the “Recognition of Labour Rights in the Informal Sector: Ratification of ILO C 177 and C 189” at a local hotel on Wednesday. The seminar was organised by HomeNet Pakistan in collaboration with the Labour Education Foundation. The seminar was addressed among others by women rights activists, former member of the National Assembly (MNA) Mehnaz Rafi, economist Dr Qais Aslam, Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) Regional Head Salman Abid, HomeNet Pakistan Executive Director Ume Laila Azhar, labour leader Farooq Tariq, Senior Programme Officer Javed Pasha and District Labour Officer Sheikh Sabir.
The seminar was organised to highlight the contribution of informal sector workers and highlight the role of convention of home-based workers and domestic workers. Informal sector is the backbone of the economy but still highly neglected. While appreciating the efforts of HomeNet Pakistan to bring home-based women workers in the limelight and highlight their issues and problems, the speakers said that this labour force is actively contributing their big share to the national exchequer but special attention of the government for improvement of their living standards is needed.
They also called upon the government to include the informal sector in its priorities to honour international commitments. They said that Pakistan has a very large informal sector in which nearly 76 percent women had joined the home-based sector in no more than the past 15 years; more specifically, it seems that the trend for home-based work had intensified from the 1990s.
Based on the countrywide data, the total workforce of HBWs came to be approximately 12 million women. The home-based women’s urban workforce was estimated to be 3 million (26 percent) and the rural workforce to be 8 million (74 percent). Among the four provinces, the urban home-based women work force in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 1.2 million (41.9 percent), 0.7 million (24.6 percent), 0.9 million (29.8 percent) and 0.11 million (3.7 percent) respectively.
The rural HBWs work force in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is six million (70.5 percent), 1.9 million (22.4 percent), 0.5 million (6.4 percent) and 55,677 (0.65 percent) respectively. According to a conservative estimate, out of the $160 billion size of country’s economy, $32 billion plus is in the informal sector. An approximate assessment shows that 32 percent of the informal workforce is in the wholesale and retail business, 21 percent in the manufacturing sector, 17.5 percent in community and social and personnel sector, 13.8 percent in construction and 11.1 percent in the transport sector.
The informal sector consists of small units that produce goods or services with the primary objective of generating employment and incomes for the families engaged in these activities. Informal activities have often been characterised by low levels of capital, skills, diminished access to organised markets and technologies; low and unstable incomes and poor and unpredictable working conditions. Speakers added that women’s labour force participation has enhanced over time and there was a sharp increase in their unemployment from 1 to 10 percent, which was accompanied by a 40 percent decline in self-employment.
Women are much more disadvantaged in work than men and get employment where they are vulnerable and there is no decent employment. They are employed mainly in the informal sectors of the economy and constituted 71.7 percent of the workforce in 2008. The speakers said that the monthly income of more than three-fourths of the employees’ of the informal sector is less than Rs 1,500.
During the seminar it was said that the new ILO standards set out that domestic workers around the world who care for families and households, must have the same basic labour rights as those available to other workers: reasonable hours of work, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights at work including among others freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses of 117 countries place the number of domestic workers at a minimum of 53 million, but experts say there could be 100 million in the world, considering that this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered. In developing countries, they make up at least 4 to 12 percent of wage employment. Around 83 percent of these workers are women or girls and many are migrant workers. The convention defines domestic work as work performed in or for a household or households. While the new instruments cover all domestic workers, they provide for special measures to protect those workers who, because of their young age or nationality or live-in status, may be exposed to additional risks relative to their peers, among others. The new convention will come into force after countries have ratified it.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Lahore Women Wing President and Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) Faiza Malik assured the support of MPAs for approval of a policy for HBWs and possible legislation.

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