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Plight of home-based workers

Home-based workers are contributing a lot to the economy of Pakistan as they are doing a tremendous job by locally producing homemade items, such as needlework, embroidery, quilts, etc.

Education brings a lasting change and enriches the skills of people to bring innovations in their work by researching and exploring the markets to market such items. But these artisans and skilled women get the golden chance to showcase their skills only at cultural events organised by development organisations, culture departments and at fairs at shrines of Sufi saints where stalls are set up to attract people from all walks of life to purchase their handicrafts at a high price owing to the high cost of travelling and raw materials.

Their constant exclusion from the minimum wage policy, life insurance and health insurance policy prompted the home-based workers both male and female to stage protests recently to press for their demands since they are not being given their due rights as safeguarded by the state.

The protests were supported by the human rights and women’s rights NGOs to influence the government to formulate a policy for home-based workers. The Sindh government took the lead in this by becoming the first province ever to have adopted a policy for home-based workers and passed the Sindh Home-based Workers Act of 2018. The Sindh government became the first province in Asia to have adopted a policy and legislative framework for the home-based workers that will likely benefit these skilled persons.

The passage of the Sindh Home-based workers Act of 2018 is the kind of initiative we expect from the federal government. It should announce a national policy for home-based workers so that the provinces implement the policy in letter and in spirit. The provinces should also legislate the policy framework for the workers and give market access to these home-based workers to sell their products at competitive prices that benefit them, especially women working at home.

This will at least contribute to the income generation and fix minimum wages to protect the rights of these workers.

There is also a strong need to establish skills development centres in rural areas as per the existing skills of rural women to help improve their economic condition and open opportunities for their work and income generation so that they may support their families and earn a respectable earning by working from home.

Working from home is getting popularity throughout world as technological advancement has bridged the gap between countries and opened infinite opportunities. The Ministry of IT and Telecom has taken the lead to introduce —a joint initiative of the Ministry of IT and Telecom and Virtual University of Pakistan named ‘Ignite’ to impart free skills-based training to the youth through online learning and the YouTube channel. This is a great initiative to impart skills to the youth free of cost and enable them to get jobs working as freelancers, digital marketers and accountants.

The Ministry of Labour, SMEDA and NAVTEC may come up with a similar project to build the skills of home-based workers in their respective fields such as tailoring and design-making, fashion designing, blanket and quilt making, at the grassroots level to transform their skills into income generation.

The government should come up with small-scale loans for these skilled domestic workers through commercial as well as microfinance banks so that these deprived communities may avail the financial assistance to set up their stalls and shops in villages, small towns and cities. In Sindh, the SRSO has done a tremendous job under the UC-based programme ‘Success’ and revitalised the income-generation ability of rural women. This training and access to market will engage these workers in the workplace and they can increase their earning potential if given proper advice and guidance.

It is high time that the government of Pakistan adopted a legislative framework for home-based workers so that the long-standing issues facing domestic skilled workers may be addressed.

The Express Tribune