Trade unions urged to improve women’s representation

4,487 women registered with 7,382 trade unions in the country.

Shamsul Islam August 13, 2012


Trade unions should start by promoting equality within their own ranks by increasing the women’s representation. The current participation of women in these unions is considerably lower than their share in the country’s work force, Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) Director Nazia Sardar said on Monday.

She was speaking at a consultative workshop on Connecting Voices for the Social and Legal Cover for Home-Based Workers. She said the number of women registered with 7,382 trade unions in the country was 4,487. With the total membership of all trade unions at around 300,000, woman’s share was only 1.49 per cent.

Sardar said one reason was that majority of women workers were home-based workers, employed in the informal sector of the economy.

Janbaz Labour Federation President Aslam Wafa said the civil society should campaign for the recognition of home-based workers as labourers. He said the government could do so just by adding a section on home-based work in the definition of labour in Pakistan Industrial and Commercial Employment (Standing Order) of 1968.

Mumtaz Hussain, a rights activist, said that the provincial government should review its labour laws to provide social welfare benefits to home-based workers. He said the laws on labour were discriminatory towards home-based workers, a majority of whom were women.

AWAM Executive Secretary Naseem Anthony urged the government to ratify the International Labour Organisation Convention 177 that was concerned with the rights of home-based workers. He said by recognising them as workers under the law and giving them access to skill development programmes and needs-based small loans, the government could help increase their productivity.

Hanif Ramay of Muttahida Labour Federation Punjab said organisations working for protection of labour rights should improve coordination with one another to be more effective.

Sajid Iqbal Safdar of the Pakistan Trade Unions Federation, Akhter Aziz of Labour Department, Bilal Arshed of the Employees Old-age Benefits Institute (EOBI) and Asif Mehmood of the Benezir Income Support Programme also addressed the gathering.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2012.