Home Based Workers (HBWs) refer to the general category of workers, who work in the informal or unorganized sector carrying out remunerative work within their homes or in the surrounding grounds. However, the term “Home-Based Work” is very broad. Home based workers do piecework for an employer who can be a subcontractor, agent or a middleman. They can work in the new economy (assembling micro-electronics) or the old (weaving carpets). Home based workers are not confined to the developing countries only but are found in developed countries as well. It is estimated that there are over 100 million home-based workers in the world and more than half this number are in South Asia. The home-based women workers living in almost every low-income urban locality in the country, as well as in remote rural areas, are amongst the most exploited group of workers today. They constitute a major segment of labour deployment in the informal sector of the economy. Bulk of these workers live and work in ‘on-the margin’ survival conditions and do a variety of jobs for industry and trade, ranging from sewing garments, assembling electronic components to simple jobs of sorting, packaging and labeling goods. As a workforce, home-based workers have remained largely invisible. By Asian Development Bank’s definition, social protection consists of policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and interruption / loss of income.
ILO has adopted Convention No.177 for Home Based Workers, which calls upon the member countries to adopt, implement and periodically review a national policy on homework aimed at improving the situation of home workers, in consultation with the most representative organizations concerned with home workers and those of employers of home workers. Pakistan has not so far adopted C-177 Convention of the ILO.
National Policy and Legal Framework
The Government of Pakistan while recognizing HBW as a special category of worker was in the process to formulate National Policy on Home Based Workers. A draft policy was prepared after exhaustive consultation with the stake holders at provincial level. The draft policy was yet to be finalized when 18th Constitutional amendment was passed and labour related matters were devolved to the provinces. The Government of Punjab took up the matter on priority and a Provincial Council for the Home Based Workers comprising official and non-official members was constituted with the following mandate beside others:
- To review the draft national policy on HBWs for its adoption as provincial policy on HBWs
- To propose plan of action for the application on the policy for HBWs at provincial level.
- To review the existing labour laws applicable on the HBWs for extending social protection and other benefits
- To chalk out a mechanism for the registration of HBWs
- To propose possible legislation for the HBWs for provision of social protection and data collection at the provincial level
HBWs are a normal feature of our society and a bulk of our labour community especially women are HBWs. But the thing worth mentioning is that the home based sector is neither covered by the labour laws nor the definition of home based worker is part of any statute, so HBW does not fall within the definition of worker / workman for securing certain rights guaranteed under different labour laws. In this scenario, labour laws do not cover this sector so most of the HBWs are exploited by their employers, contractors and middle men as terms and working conditions of HBWs are not regulated by any law or regulation.
The Government of Punjab has formulated provincial policy on home-based workers and a law with the name “Punjab Home Based Workers Act, 2013” has been approved in principle by the cabinet and a draft of this law is pending with the Law Department for clause-wise analysis and vetting. After necessary vetting, it will be presented before the Punjab Assembly for enactment.
Pilot Project: Empowerment of HWBs in Targeted Districts
(Lahore, Gujranwala and Multan)
This pilot project will build capacity of the Labour & HR Department to develop and streamline a system for implementing the draft HBWs policy and the draft HBWs Act and ascertain the most effective ways of ensuring that the entitlements envisioned in the policy are secured.
The overall objective of the project is to empower HBWs in the target districts and enhance access to skills development and social welfare opportunities.
The specific phase wise objectives are as follows:
- Raise awareness on HBWs concerns
- Enhance skills of HBWs in target districts
- Facilitate HBWs in accessing dispute resolution and complaint redressal mechanisms
- Undertake registration of HBWs according to developed format and issue registration cards to at least 10000 HBWs
- Link the registered HBWs to social security institutions so that at least 3000 are registered with social security schemes
- Link at least 600 registered workers with government skills centers at the district level
- Support enforcement of the HBW rights by establishing minimum wage and instituting complaints redressal and dispute resolution mechanisms
- To achieve the above objectives, L&HRD and UN Women have identified the following interventions:
- Establish a Project Directorate within the L&HRD headed by the Project Director who will be appointed by the Government in consultation with UN Women. The project directorate will include a three member team at the Directorate of Labour Welfare Lahore constituting one Program Manager and two assistants (one Program Assistant and one Database Assistant) and one District Manager in each of the three pilot district to be based within the local district office of the Directorate of Labour. All staff will report to the Project Director including the Project Manager.
- From Jun 2014 to Dec 2015 (19 Month)
The agreement was assigned in May 2014 between UNWOMEN and Labour & HR department. The 1st payment amounting to rupees 3.808 million received from UNWOMEN in the 2nd last week of October 2014. Practically the project started in October 2014. The progress made so for is as follows:
- Hiring of professional staff completed
- Procurement of IT equipment, furniture etc completed
- Project Office established
- Clusters of HBWs identified in Gujranwala, Lahore and Multan
- Survey forms developed
- UN mission on MID TERM project review
- Project launching ceremony held in district Lahore, Multan and Gujranwala
- Linkage developed with Social Welfare Department & PSIC
- Represent labour department at various forums
- Attend experience sharing meeting with UN-WOMEN implementation partners in UN-OFFICE ISLAMABAD
- Quarterly progress report send to UN-WOMEN by Project Manager