HYDERABAD: Amid a global economic crisis, there has been a big shift of industrial production and workers to home-based industries and this has given a sharp growth to the informal sector. In Sindh also, 70 per cent of the industrial production is generated by the informal sector and millions of home-based workers are making great contribution to the national economy. However, they are not getting their due rights under the labour and other relevant laws only because they are not registered and covered under the laws as well as government’s social protection and welfare schemes.
This was observed by speakers at a divisional level convention of home-based women workers in the local press club on Saturday.
The convention was attended by a large number of home-based women workers. The speakers included Zehra Khan of the Home-based Women Workers Federation, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union, Jameela Latif of the Home-based Women Bangle Workers, and Shakeela Khan of the Home-based Women Workers Federation.
They said that the bangle industry of Hyderabad alone had hundreds of thousands of women workers who were not getting their due rights. These workers were exposed to serious health hazards as dangerous chemicals were used in bangle-making, they observed.
According to the speakers, bangle-making is mostly done at home, the entire family becomes engaged in the production process. The health risks they are exposed to include cancer, TB, asthma and eye, bone and skin diseases. They said the home-based women workers were exploited by contractors and made to work for 16 to 20 hours a day against a nominal wage. They claimed that many of these workers were not able to register themselves as voters or get their CNICs after losing their thumb impressions due to a constant use of the hazardous chemicals.
The speakers appreciated a move by the labour department and the UN Women’s Pilot Project under which 10,000 home-based workers of the bangle industry in Hyderabad are be registered and will be entitled to medical examination. They called for more such initiatives at the government level.
The speakers urged the government to approve the draft policy for home-based workers so that informal sector workers could get their due rights. The draft, they added, was prepared and submitted with the department concerned by the Home-based Workers Federation and other organisations but was had been pending an approval for long.
Consultations on home-based women workers’ social protection law was also under way, they noted.
Through a resolution, the convention demanded immediate approval of the draft policy so that home-based women workers could be covered under the labour laws like those associated with the agriculture sector and covered under the industrial relations law.
The convention demanded that bangle industry workers of Hyderabad should be provided training facility and allowed to form of their cooperative societies.
It urged the government to set up display centres for their products in Karachi and Hyderabad, grant subsidy in utility bills for women bangle makers and held register as voters those bangle makers who had lost their thumb impressions.