LAHORE: “The situation of registering the labour in informal sector is so dire that even 50 percent of the industries have not registered their trade unions, so when we speak of unregistered home based workers, it is not surprising,” said Human Rights Commission Pakistan senior member Husain Naqi referring to the situation in Punjab.

Mr Naqi was speaking at a meeting of civil society organisations and the media held on Tuesday at the HRCP building to discuss gaps in bringing about a provincial policy for home based workers (HBWs).

The purpose of the meeting was primarily to discuss the advocacy strategy for policy on HBWs in Punjab, especially with relation to International Women’s Day which fell on Sunday (March 8).

Home based workers in the country’s informal sector comprise about 70 percent of the labour force, while most of them are women. They are unregistered, do not receive social security benefits, have no say in decision making when it comes to their economic rights and have no unions or bodies to support them.

The meeting’s participants included those from HomeNet Pakistan, HRCP, SAP-PK, Labour Education Foundation, Aurat Foundation, PILER, SPO, WWU, Umang Development Foundation, Mutahidda Labour Federations, BLLF, WISE, MUMKIN Alliance, Apwa and media partners.

Umme Laila Azhar, executive director, HomeNet Pakistan, said in 2012 the Punjab government had developed a comprehensive law for the HBWs which was still lying with the provincial law department. She stressed the need for its early approval so that HBWs could be registered and benefit from this.

“The government must understand this is not just an issue of workers’ rights, but it is also an economic issue,” said Irfan Mufti, Deputy Director of SAP-PK. “It needs to know that when these informal workers are registered, they will end up in giving much more to the GDP than what is being given to it today. Also this can be a major political benefit to the government in the long term,” he added.

It was discussed that in order to please a handful of business owners, thousands of workers were being ignored when it should actually be the other way round.

SPO regional head Salman Abid said currently it was a big challenge for workers to receive social security, which in fact was their right. “The feedback we have received from departments is not proactive,” he said.

The participants gave recommendations to take forward the policy on HBWs, including a need to develop research-based analysis, lobbying to push the process and that there was a need to develop proper follow up and monitoring mechanism to ensure the government’s accountability.

It was agreed upon that HBWs should be included in the Labour Force Survey that took place every two years and a national census should be done as soon as possible.

Published in Dawn March 11th , 2015

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