Sindh Information and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani said on Monday that the province is the first in the country, as well as South Asia, to have passed the Home-Based Workers Act in 2018 under which such workers were provided social and legal protection.
Speaking in Karachi at the first day of a two-day inter-provincial exchange of experiences by parliamentarians and senior government officials on the economic empowerment of home-based workers (HBWs) organised by the UN Women Pakistan and the Sindh Labour and Human Resource Department, Ghani said: "We are working on the rules of business and looking to finalise them by mid-March."
The minister also expressed the hope that other provinces will follow in Sindh's footsteps and "integrate the best practices and approach to empower HBWs".
According to the Women's Economic Participation and Empowerment in Pakistan Status Report 2016, women account for 65 per cent of the Rs400 billion that HBWs contribute to Pakistan's economy.
However, most workers receive low wages and are denied legal protection and social security, the report highlights.
Speaking on the occasion, Sindh Labour and Human Resource Department Secretary Abdul Rasheed Solangi maintained that the provincial government has already recognised HBWs in its policy to formalise the informal sector.
On the other hand, Punjab Labour and Human Resource Department Secretary Sara Aslam said: "This piece of legislation recognises those who work at or from their homes as a special category of workers with legal equality in status and rights at par with traditional market-based wage earners."
Balochistan Labour and Manpower Department Director General Saeed Sarparah remarked that a taskforce has been notified in order to improve Balochistan's policy for HBWs and ensure its implementation in order to safeguard their rights.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Labour Secretary Khayyam Hassan Khan added that a taskforce was notified by the KP chief secretary to build consensus on a bill for HBWs.
"This taskforce will review the draft, consult with all stakeholders, incorporate their suggestions and finalise the draft of the bill by the middle of March," he said.
Meanwhile, Ingvild Haugland Tokheim, second secretary of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, stated: "The realisation of women's human rights is a good in itself. At the same time, it is a driver of democracy, sustainable development, poverty reduction, stability and sustainable peace."
Talking about a three-year project supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy on the economic empowerment of women, HBWs and excluded groups in Pakistan, she said: "I am glad to see that the HBWs whom the Norwegian embassy supported by partnering with UN Women Pakistan in 2008 have now been recognised as an integral part of the workforce.”
Further, UN Women Pakistan Deputy Country Representative Aisha Mukhtar appreciated the efforts of all the provinces for empowering HBWs.
“The objective of these sessions is to provide a platform to the provinces to share experiences, gain firsthand knowledge about the challenges and issues faced by HBWs, and incorporate lessons and practices in your respective provincial plans to empower HBWs,” she said.
“By joining forces, we have the potential to advance gender equality and make a real difference in the lives of women.”