Sindh labour department signs MoU for home-based workers’ registration

Updated 12 Nov 2020

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The MOU being signed on Wednesday.—White Star
The MOU being signed on Wednesday.—White Star

KARACHI: It was a moment of pride for the home-based workers gathered to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the registration of home-based workers in Sindh on Wednesday.

They have fought hard and travelled far to get where they have reached today. The Sindh government has recognised home-based workers as labour by enacting the Sindh Home Based Workers Act 2018. The rules of the act were passed in January 2020.

“We are pleased to announce that now the next step is of registering home-based workers in Sindh with the labour department,” said Zehra Khan, founder and general secretary of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF). “For the purpose, HBWWF and the labour and human resource department of Sindh are signing the MoU,” she added.

Looking back at their journey of several years, Ms Khan said that in the beginning it was difficult for them to even make people understand what was meant by home-based workers.

“We started by founding a trade union for them, which later consolidated into a federation,” she said.

Exact numbers yet to be known

“These people are a part of this country’s economy but they were not being recognised for their contribution. When it was established that yes, they are also part of this country’s labour force, we needed to know how many were there because the exact data of the number of home-based workers is not even known to us. They need to be registered for the government to know them and provide them with the facilities that all labourers deserve,” she said.

‘Pakistan is the first country in South Asia to recognise the contribution of home-based workers in economy’

“As it is, the number of these informal labourers is growing as factories are also turning to them for work in these times of Covid-19 lockdowns and work at home,” said Zehra Khan.

“Primarily home-based workers are women. But as we got to know more and more of them, we also found several men who were also working as home-based workers,” she pointed out.

About the Sindh Home Based Workers Act 2018, she said that she was grateful to the Sindh government for passing a resolution that was turned into an act.

“Pakistan is the first country in South Asia to recognise the contribution of home-based workers in the country’s economy. There are 100 million home-based workers in the world and 50 million of them are based in South Asia alone. Now Pakistan will serve as a positive example for the other countries where there are home-based workers,” she said.

Social security, pension, health allowance soon

Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research said it was a moment of joy to watch the struggle of home-based workers reach this point.

“The implementation of the Sindh Home Based Workers Act 2018 in the form of its first phase that is registration will all be worth the effort in future as it is apparent that home-based workers are increasing in number now. Soon they will have facilities such as social security, health allowance, pension, etc,” he said.

Farhat Parveen of NOW Communities said that she studied the difference between home-based workers and labour that works in factories and other places. She also wondered if the Sindh government could develop an application to make the registration of home-based workers easier.

“Our world is seeing so many technological changes, so I wonder if such a thing can also be done,” she said.

Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation said that it felt like he was witnessing a historic moment as the skilful hands, the golden hands of workers, were going to get the respect that they so rightly deserve.

Additional Labour Secretary Dr Zahid Hussain, who also happens to be chairman of the Minimum Wage Board, said: “Now as the registration process of home-based workers opens, we also start working out how we can better facilitate them, what they need, what should be their minimum wages according to the country’s inflation rate, etc.”

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2020