KARACHI: After legislative breakthroughs such as the 18th Amendment and the abolition of the concurrent list, labour stakeholders demanded at a seminar on Friday the provincial government register female home-based workers who contribute to 65 per cent of the economy.
A seminar on an implementation strategy for a Home-Based Workers (HBW) policy was organised by the Aurat Foundation in collaboration with HomeNet Pakistan and Labour Education Foundation to invite suggestions from various stakeholders on the formulation of laws and policies to protect Sindh’s informal workforce that comprises at least 10.9 million women in the country.
“We have been working for the rights of home-based workers since 1995 but they are yet to be recognised by the government. Until that happens, no new policy can be applicable to these women who contribute at least 65 per cent to the country’s economy,” said Mahnaz Rahman, the director of the Aurat Foundation.
AWith rising unemployment, more and more people have shifted from formal to the informal labour sector, she said.
Laila cited the problems being faced by informal workforce “There are no health and old age benefits for them. They are also deprived of the minimum wage of Rs7,000 under the Labour Policy 2010.”
She explained that part of the problem lies in the fact that no official mapping survey has been conducted which has made the fight for their rights even more difficult. “If every woman is counted, her contribution to the economy should also be counted,” she added. “From manufacturing footballs, surgical instruments, carpet weaving and bangle making, women are doing everything at home but receive little or no acknowledgement for their work.”
Laila said that HomeNet Pakistan is working with the Federal Bureau of Statistics to amend the census form. Before the upcoming census in October this year the form will have a separate section for the number of home-based workers in each household.
She also proposed the registration of all HBWs through the Nadra database and the issuance of a social security card that would give them access to various financial assistance schemes of the government such as the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
The panellists said that a policy draft had been prepared in 2007 and after two years, the draft was sent to the ministry of women’s development and the ministry of labour, but it is still under review.
The Labour Education Foundation’s Nasir Mansoor said that people are increasingly joining the informal sector and this is being welcomed by industrialists because it benefits them. “They don’t need to worry about the rights of the workers or deal with hassles of unions when it comes to HBWs.”
The commissioner of the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI), Hazrat Muhammad, and the Sindh Minister for Labour Ameer Nawab who was also the chief guest, welcomed the recommendations but added that the government is currently registering labourers in the formal sector and it may take a few months to shift its focus to the informal sector. “By the end of the year, we will register 700,000 workers from the formal sector and there are still many more that are left. We will come to the informal sector too,” Nawab assured.
The minister also announced the construction of a public medical college for children of labourers is also underway where more than 60 per cent of the admission quota will be reserved for them.
Meanwhile, Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto, the minister for women development, promised a share for HBWs in the BISP soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2010.