Karachi: In the absence of any legislation protecting the home-based workers of Sindh, they continue working in deplorable conditions.
To highlight their problems and stress the need for legislation to recognise their contribution to the economy, a seminar was held at a hotel in Karachi on Tuesday.
Parliamentarians, trade union activists and home-based workers from all over the province attended the event.
HomeNet Pakistan’s regional coordinator, Nuzhat Shirin, said: “Everyone who stays at home and works from there on a piece-rate system qualifies as a home-based worker.”
She said: “In Pakistan 80 percent women work from home, yet they receive low wages, and in case of a mishap, they are denied any compensation from their employer.”
The Punjab government has passed the home-based workers bill guaranteeing several rights to these workers, but the Sindh administration lags behind despite a draft of the bill resting in the assembly.
Nuzhat said: “The civil society, after collaborating with the labour ministry, had outlined a policy and then submitted a draft of the bill in the assembly.”
She said: “We are hoping that a resolution in the assembly passes in a day or two, and on Labour Day we receive good news of the bill becoming an act.”
Sabiha Ghani, an activist who mobilises home-based workers in Mauripur and Keamari, said: “Our social conditions are such that men do not allow women to step out of the house and work. Their only way to economic empowerment is working from home.”
She said: “Employers make them (women) work on very low piece rates, while they are selling the same thing in the market at a much higher price.”
Sabiha said a home-based worker in Mauripur got as low as Rs100 for 50 frocks stitched, while the same frock would be sold in the market at several times its labour cost. “When these women try to bargain with their employers, they are termed disreputable.”
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research’s Farhat Fatima, who heads a home-based workers’ project in Lyari, said: “While the legislation passed in Punjab has its positive points, it cannot be copy-pasted in Sindh. Our province has social conditions very different from those in Punjab.”
She said the legislation for home-based workers in Sindh had been struggling to get noticed for years. “When the civil society managed to formulate a national policy for home-based workers, which was to be translated into legislation, the18th amendment was passed. After this we had to redo everything and start on provincial level.”
Farhat said: “Even after a law for home-based workers is formulated we must look for ways to implement it, as in our context legislations are seldom followed by implementation.”