AT a press conference (Oct 20) at the Karachi Press Club, Secretary-General of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) has recommended that the labour laws should also be extended to about five million home-based women workers.
To achieve this goal, she said the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No. 177 on Home Work Convention, 1996, should be ratified by Pakistan. Article 4 of the Convention provides that the national policy on homework shall promote equality of treatment between home workers and other wage earners, taking into account the special characteristics of homework, particularly in relation to: (a) the homeworkers’ right to establish or join organisations of their own choosing and to participate in the activities of such organisations, (b) protection against discrimination in employment and occupation, (c) protection in the field of occupational safety and health, (d) remuneration, (e) statutory social security protection, (f) access to training, (g) minimum age for admission to employment or work, and (h) maternity protection.
Before considering the ratification of Convention 177, the government has to consider numerous factors relating to women homeworkers. The more disorganised, volatile and unpredictable will be the state of homeworkers, the more difficult it will be to ensure compliance with the Convention’s requirements.
The factors to be considered comprise but are not limited to the existing quality of available women homeworkers, nature of their employment, work environment, emoluments and commitment to their employers, etc.
At present the employment of urban women homeworkers is broadly divided into two categories, i.e. those employed in households located in posh localities and the others working in remaining areas of the city. The majority of them is illiterate and there are few who remain employed in one household for more than five to six months. Most of them work on a part-time basis for two to three hours doing dish washing, house cleaning, etc. Some households employ them for part-time cooking or for baby-sitting, which is the only job requiring extended working hours.
Emoluments drawn and facilities currently available to women homeworkers, especially in posh localities, are higher than those of their male counterparts in the industry.
Therefore, HBWWF should refrain from venturing into this uncharted territory till the above-mentioned issues relating to the quality of available women homeworkers have been addressed.