KARACHI, Sept 3: The Sindh government has prepared a final draft to legalise the rights of the home-based workers (HBWs), declaring them a ‘special category’ of workers, distinct from domestic workers, it emerged on Tuesday.
Officials in the provincial labour department said the final draft was with the cabinet and it might be tabled as an act in the provincial assembly soon. The Sindh Assembly had adopted a resolution on rights of the HBWs two years back, they said.
The final draft recommends that the provincial government recognise that the HBWs are a special category of workers that includes a person who works within the home boundaries, or on any other premises of their choice, excluding the premises of the employer; a person who works at home for remuneration; and a person who is self-employed or does piece-rate, own-account, or contract work, which results in a product or services as specified by the employer.
The government would ‘endeavour’ to resolve issues of the HBWs concerning their status as workers, extension of social security benefits currently applicable only to workers in the formal organised sector of employment through the enactment of a law, enjoyment of core labour standards with the rights and entitlements in addition to all rights and benefits available to other wage earners performing similar work, easy access to comparatively cheaper credit through several ongoing programmes, easy access to markets for their products, protection from malpractices of ‘intermediaries’ and ‘middlepersons’ and promotion of non-industrial handicraft goods.
The provincial labour department will work as the implementing agency under the mandate of the government of Sindh in close collaboration with the relevant departments. The provincial plan may also suggest or establish an inter-sectoral and inter-ministerial steering group, having representation of civil society organisations, workers and employers at the provincial level to oversee the implementation of the HBW policy.
The provincial government will prepare a comprehensive plan of action for implementing the provincial policy on HBWs. After endorsement by various stakeholders and approval by the government, its implementation will start, using time-bound, result-oriented and objectively verifiable, gender segregated indicators. The policy should be implemented progressively.
The relevant law development and adoption shall follow the policy within three months. The government will set up inter-departmental and cross-sectoral autonomous bodies, at the provincial level, on the basis of public and private partnership to coordinate efforts to be undertaken for the implementation of the policy.
A “provincial council for the home-based workers” will be tripartite in nature and empowered to carry out the required overseeing and monitoring the implementation of the law.
Officials said most of the over two million home-based workforce in the province were piece-rate workers involved in manufacturing and post-manufacturing tasks such as garment and hosiery, shoemaking, embroidery, carpet weaving, handlooms, woodwork, bangle making, dates cleaning and packing, pottery, handicrafts and others.
Officials said most HBWs were women. The informal sector was the backbone of the economy and the HBWs were working in various sectors and contributing to the economy and national GDP.
They admitted the workers in the informal sector, specifically in the home-based sector, were neither covered by the labour laws nor the definition of the “home-based worker” was part of any statute.
Labour protection, social security coverage and provision of safety and health services and benefits are not extended to the informal sector, including the HBWs. Therefore, they are unable to access the services, facilities, rights and benefits, including fair remunerations.
Studies conducted on the HBWs suggest the involvement of children, especially girls, in home-based work.
The ensuing law is expected to ask for special measures to be devised to eliminate such practices.
The salient features of the draft law promises to recognise and accept the HBWs as workers in their own right through legislative and administrative actions; ensure effective promotion and protection of human rights of the HBWs and to respect, promote and realise the fundamental principles and rights at work; determine minimum wages to a just level considering the inflationary trends in the country; ensure the application of all rights and entitlements on the HBWs available to other wage earners performing similar work, including social protection coverage, maternity protection as well as safe and fair conditions of work for them.
Officials said the government was working in collaboration with other stakeholders to formalise the HBWs, ensuring fair terms of employment, access to social security benefits, abolition of forced labour and the right to collective bargaining.
The law will ensure HBW women’s reproductive health and freedom from sexual harassment or gender-based violence and give them the right to launch complaints in case of such violations.
“The government recognises the rights and importance of the HBWs in the economy and labour market and we are doing our level best to ensure that they are looked after, protected, promoted and encouraged,” said an official.