Karachi: More than 12 million people work in their homes in diverse field from garments to football stitching, from making glass bangles to vehicles spare parts, from footwear to electrical appliances but the law of land does not recognize them as worker and hence they do not get facilities and social security cover as enjoyed by the workers of other fields that have got legal status of workers as per labour laws.
These home-based workers, more than 80 percent of them women work day and night along with their children at their homes producing goods for small and medium size industries on piece work basis earn meagre wages. The industrialists and traders reap profits from the labour of these home-based workers but they not own them and do not contribute for their social security and welfare schemes. These workers are also not covered by the minimum wages law and their work hours are also not specified, leaving a wide field for their brutal exploitation.
Zahra Khan, general secretary Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), says the phenomenon of home-based work is rising in third world countries. She said in South Asia the number of such workers has crossed figure of 50 million, about 12 million of them in Pakistan alone. She said majority of these workers are women who get lower wages even when compared to the low wages of male home-based workers.
She said they have been demanding for equal wages for equal work, but no one hears their cries. She said in Sindh province alone there are more than 4million home-based workers. She said the home-based workers are different from the domestic workers, as the domestic workers have their owner or employer, but the home-based workers work through third party petty contractors and even they do not know who the ultimate beneficiary of their work is.
Zahra Khan said due to the efforts of HBWWF and Sindh labour department a policy draft for home-based workers has already been finalized and submitted to the provincial cabinet but its formal approval is being awaited. She urged the provincial government to approve this policy and initiate lawmaking to give a legal cover to the home-based workers of Sindh province.
Nasir Mansoor deputy secretary general of National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) said like labours of formal industrial sector the workers of informal home-based sector should be given the facilities of old age benefits, social security, pension, occupational safety and health and minimum wages and fixed work hours. He said women home based workers should be given their due rights as they are playing a vital role in national economy. He said in the rural economy women work day and night in farms and fields but their work in not even recognized.
He said in big urban cities and small towns hundreds of thousands of women work at their homes making different articles and these women deserves to be recognized as formal worker as per factories act and other labour laws. He said they fully support the demands of HBWWs and request the Sindh government that they should also be given a legal status of worker as given to the workers of agriculture and fisheries sectors recently.
Mehmood Hamid, president of All Pakistan Association of Small Traders and Cottage Industries (APAOSTI) Karachi chapter, said the problems of workers of informal sector need to be solved on priority as they play a backbone role in national economy. He said giving workers their due rights would increase their productivity and help bolstering trade and industry.
He said it is a pity that even the workers of formal sectors do not get the minimum wages and they have to work for long hours. He said this exploitation of workers should be ended and all labours working in formal as well as informal sectors should be given their due rights, as in the eyes of the constitution all citizens are equal.