KARACHI, March 19: Speakers at a consultation on Saturday demanded that a national policy on home-based workers be formulated immediately so that the large number of people working from their homes could get their due rights.
Speaking at the event titled ‘National policy for home-based workers’ and organised jointly by the HomeNet Pakistan, Aurat Foundation and Labour Education Foundation, they said that since the home-based workers were not even considered workers in the legal term, they could not benefit from any of the social welfare schemes of the government.
Sindh Labour Minister Ameer Nawab said home-based workers, an overwhelming majority of whom were women, were not only paid less but they also did not have any job security. Besides, since they were not considered workers in the legal term, they could not get registered with various social security schemes of the government.
He said efforts were being made to formulate a process through which it could be established that a certain home-based worker was employed by one employer or another. Once that was done, getting rights for these workers would not be much of a problem.
Sindh Women Development minister Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto said that while formulating the policy, the registration of the home-based workers would be simplified so these workers could easily get themselves registered and not only had the security of employment, but also mental peace regarding the social security facilities that could be provided to them.
National Commission on the Status of Women chairperson Anis Haroon said that industrialists having resources and contacts with the ruling elite had avoided paying the workers their due rights for the last six decades. But now the time had come to formulate laws so that the workers got their rights. She said workers were the backbone of the national economy and if they were not satisfied, a nation could not progress in the real terms.
Karamat Ali said that sector-wise trade unions be formed so that a person working anywhere could become their member. He said it would facilitate the registration of home-based workers, who could also be registered on the basis of regions or area where they lived.
He said hardly 10 per cent workers were employed in the formal sector and a majority of them did not have trade unions. He said many of them were not even getting the minimum wages set by the government.
Federal Labour Ministry’s Mustafain Kazmi said efforts were being made to issue smart cards to workers with the assistance of the National Database Registration Authority so that a worker having a smart card could avail social welfare facilities such as health (through employees social security institution), shelter (workers welfare fund), pension (employees old-age benefit institution) etc – with just one card. At present one had to get registered with all these organisations separately to avail of the facilities.
He said that with the passage of the 18th amendment and subsequent devolution of various federal government functions to the federating units, while the provinces were getting many powers, some issues were also cropping up. He said the social welfare schemes of the government were funded with the contributions of employers. The funds, he said, were spent all over the country.
He said Sindh contributed a major share to the collection of funds. He said some provinces were insisting that such social welfare schemes should be kept with the federal government.
A Punjab MPA, Faiza Malik, said that while the other provinces might formulate such a piece of legislation soon, it would be difficult to get it passed from the Punjab, where the rulers did not support women-friendly legislations – a proof of that mindset could be seen from the fact that there was no women minister or parliamentary secretary in Punjab. She said earlier when the PPP was a coalition partner there, all women minister and parliamentary secretaries were from the PPP.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Women Development Minister Sitara Ayaz said her government was making efforts to give women their due rights and as such it was the first province which had established the provincial commission on the status of women. Balochistan Women Development Minister Ghazala Gola said their assembly had passed three resolutions on women’s issues, including the one on home-based workers.
She said the political governments be allowed to complete their tenure so that they could resolve the issues being faced by the people in general and women in particular. She, however, did not agree to the suggestion that the government curtail its expenditures by downsizing the cabinet.