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Labour rights for home-based workers urged

LAHORE: The government should recognise informal sector as a major contributor to the national economy and acknowledge home-based and domestic workers, especially women, as collective workforce.

This was consensus among participants of a seminar on `Recognition of labour rights in informal sector: Ratification of ILO C 177 and C 189,` arranged by the HomeNet Pakistan in collaboration with Labour Education Foundation at a local hotel on Monday.

Former MNA Mehnaz Rafi, Labour Education Foundation director Khalid Mahmud, economist Dr Qais Aslam, Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) regional head Salman Abid, HomeNet Pakistan Executive Director Ume Laila Azhar and Labour Party Pakistan leader Farooq Tariq spoke on the occasion.

The speakers were of the view that the government should implement the decisions of ILO convention C 177 for home-based workers and ILO convention C189 on domestic workers in letter and spirit to improve the lot of the working community in informal sector in the country, particularly the home-based workers.

They deplored that the home-based women workers (HBWWs) despite their massive contribution to the national exchequer could not be recognised as workers yet.

The meeting proposed that the informal sector workers – some 73 per cent of the total workforce – should be brought into the mainstream, collective community based approaches be adopted to include men in awareness raising on labour exploitation among women, women rights educational process should be a key tool in awareness raising amongst informal sector and women, sector-based approach be adopted to organise HBWs, particularly where contractors and sub-contractors had been visible and mobilisation of trade unions for the recognition of informal sector.

They also called for adoption of informal sector research methods to determine implementation of National Policy on home-based workers with particular emphasis on HBWWs, along with their registration, decent wage determination and social security, provision of cost of production payment scales which must include physical space rental to HBWs by the business enterprise, besides development and implementation of legal mechanisms for employer-employee dispute resolution for home-based and domestic workers.

The seminar was informed that women labourers` participation in various sectors has enhanced from 1 to 10 per cent, accompanied by 40 per cent decline in self-employment.

“Women have been much more disadvantaged in work than men and get employment where they are vulnerable and there is no decent employment for them. They are employed mainly in the informal sectors of the economy and constituted 71.7 per cent of the workforce in 2008. The monthly income of more than three-fourths of the employees` of the informal sector is less than Rs1,500,” a speaker said.

They said around 76 per cent of women had joined the home-based sector, especially during the past 15 years. More specifically, the trend for home-based work had intensified from the 1990s onwards.

Based on the countrywide enumeration, the total workforce of HBWWs was approximately 12 million.

The urban HBWWs in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa has been 1,275,022 (41.9 per cent), 748,056 (24.6 per cent), 905,401 (29.8 per cent) and 111,790 (3.7 per cent), respectively.

According to a conservative estimate, out of $160 billion economy of the country, over $32 billions have been in the informal sector.

An approximate assessment shows 32 per cent of the informal workforce has been in the wholesale and retail business, 21 per cent in the manufacturing sector, 17.5 per cent in community and social and personnel sector, 13.8 per cent in construction and 11.1 per cent in the transport sector.

The seminar was informed that the new ILO standards set out that domestic workers around the world must have the same basic labour rights as being granted 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 freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

MPA Faiza Malik in her speech pledged support on behalf of Punjab Assembly members for legislation on home-based workers.

Source: Dawn


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