Stay-at-home workers: Activists and unionists stress on legislation for female workers

Published: December 20, 2012
Informal sector: 12m is the number of home-based workers in Pakistan. PHOTO: NAEEM GHOURI/EXPRESS

Informal sector: 12m is the number of home-based workers in Pakistan. PHOTO: NAEEM GHOURI/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Just because a woman stays at home, does not mean that she doesn’t have rights that need to be protected under the law. This was not an argument put forward in the age-old debate between working women and housewives, but brought up by trade unionists and activists of civil society on Wednesday in favour of home-based workers.

They urged the Sindh Government to make legislation for home-based female workers to bring them under the cover of Sindh labour department. The activists were speaking at a consultation on laws and formulation of policy for home-based workers, organised by Home Net Pakistan, a network of organisations working for the recognition and rights of women working from their homes.

National Trade Union Federation President Rafiq Baloch suggested in his speech that all trade unions and members of civil society should make a grand alliance to pressurise the government on building legislation for the rights of the workers. “The government and its machinery made for the formulation of a national policy [for the workers] are slow and we need to raise our voice so that the government expedites the process.”


Zehra Khan, the general-secretary of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation said that 65 per cent of the workers in the city work from their homes and are mostly female.

“They have turned their homes into factories where their children also work with them.”

Referring to reports, she said that around 20 million people are working in the informal sector, out of which 12 million are home-based workers. “These workers don’t have any social security or health benefits and there are no parameters for their minimum income,” said Khan.

Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation, one the members of the task force for the national policy, said that they have been working on the issue for five years. “We want this government to make a law before its tenure is over,” he said.

Mansoor stressed that home-based workers should be accepted as labours and the government laws should apply to them, which include a minimum wage of Rs8,000 per month, along with health and security benefits.

The participants suggested making a coordination committee of trade unions and civil society to discuss the draft of the national policy. The recommendations would then be given to the Sindh government to turn the draft into a law.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2012.


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