Karachi’s home-based workers await registration as labourers


KARACHI: Home-based workers (HBWs), being the significant proportion of the workforce, are waiting for their basic rights to be registered as workers. The HBWs policy has been notified by the Sindh government, but still the practical implementation is not seen at the ground level.

These views were expressed by HomeNet Pakistan representative Ume Laila in a press conference jointly organised with PILER, commemorating the International Home Based Workers Day. Ume Laila from HomeNet Pakistan said that “It is only recently that home based work has been recognised as part of the informal economy in Pakistan with Sindh and Punjab having approved policies for home-based workers.  Worldwide the workforce involved in informal work has not only continued but also expanded due to new market forces and technology. This is true for high income countries as well”.

There is an ever expanding percentage of part time, irregular and unstable forms of work with little or no social protection’ whereas the scope of regular, stable workforce is reducing, she said.

She further elaborated that in “the fragmented and dispersed production within the informal economy, home-based workers in particular are generally given low-value and tedious tasks, such as cropping loose threads, basic stitching, beadwork, packing and labelling. According to a recent study by ILO, home-based workers working hours and wage rates are placed at the bottom end of the informality continuum; they are chronically and significantly underpaid. On average, the home-based workers surveyed (and their helpers) work 12.3 hours per day, six days a week and derive a monthly income of 4,342 Pakistani rupees (PKR) from their labour, she said.

Karamat Ali from PILER, while addressing the press conference, said that “a plan of action for home-based workers has to be in place if the policy for HBWs is to be implemented in true spirit”. He said that the identification and recognition of home-based workers, their mainstreaming into national and provincial economies, and the implementation of the Sindh policy for home-based workers are the steps that need to be taken as soon as possible, otherwise the HBWs would be left alone without any protection.

Mahnaz Rahman from Aurat Foundation said that the integration of home-based workers into the national and regional plan is important. The government should take steps for the data collection of HBWs in the province. It is pertinent that the HBWs registration processes should start as the workers are in the state of dismal after having the approved policy. The steps for protecting their rights and giving them social security should be prioritized and come into action at once”.

Rehana Yasmin, representative of HBWs said that after decade of long hard work and struggle, the policy of HBWs has been finalised and presented in the cabinet of Sindh for approval. “The government of Sindh immediately has to announce the action plan and law for HBWs”, she said, adding: “HBWs should come under the social protection mechanism. The Sindh government should look into the development of informal workers and utilize its potential for generating revenue for the province”. She further said that Pakistan must ratify C-177 and fulfill its international commitment. Sindh government should proactively adopt legislation and start door-to-door registration of HBWs.

The HBWs said: “We are living under hardships but no policy or law looks into this. There are no specific schemes for us, not a single mechanism of ascertaining wages, no complaint mechanism,” roared the women workers. “Millions of HBWs are awaiting registration and social security” said a HBW leader from Korangi.

Representative of workers’ federation said that the issue of HBWs is one of labour agenda. “We demand the implementation of HBWs policy. The law should immediately be approved as a large portion of women are workers too. HBWs need social protection, coverage and the government must bring them under the social protection framework”.