Govt urged to announce `much-delayed` HBWs policy

LAHORE: Representatives of various civil society organisations have urged the Punjab government to announce the long-due Home Based Workers (HBWs) policy on the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8.

“The HBWs policy has been finalised and awaiting approval of the Punjab Cabinet,” said HomeNet Pakistan Executive Director Ume Laila Azhar at a news conference at Lahore Press Club on Monday.

Flanked by representatives of other organisations, she said the Punjab government’s failure to fulfil its commitments in the Women’s Empowerment Package 2012 has not only compromised the interests of millions of HBWs in the province, but also made them helpless.

She said the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Home Work Convention, 1996 (No. 177); the Kathmandu Declaration of 2000 and the South Asian Regional Plan of Action for Home-based Workers, 2007 called for identification and recognition of home-based workers, their mainstreaming into national economies, formulation of national policies for them, their integration into national and regional markets and raising of their visibility, voices and concerns.

“HBWs contribute significantly to the national and global economies and are linked to the formal economy through value and supply chains and local markets. They are generally not incorporated into national data collection systems or into development agendas and programmes,” said Ume Laila.

She urged the Punjab government to approve the HBW policy and legislation without any further delay. It was imperative that the HBWs be covered under the social protection mechanisms and that the provincial government devised a strategy to make it possible, she stressed.

Labour Education Foundation Director Khalid Mehmood said the unjustifiable delay in approval of the HBW policy and its adoption was creating uneasiness among the HBWs and the organisations working for their rights.

He said even the labour policy, which had been finalised in April 2014, had not been implemented in the province. The government, he demanded, should not use delaying tactics and decide matters pertaining to workers on a priority basis.

Social activist and former MNA Mehnaz Rafi said it was high time the government came up with a legal framework for the protection of HBWs across Pakistan. She said though the Punjab government was coming up with a new Women’s Empowerment Package on the International Women’s Day, it had not yet fulfilled commitments it had made in the previous package announced in 2012.

Women Workers’ Union General Secretary Shaheena Kausar said HBWs should have rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining as per ILO Convention 87. It was the responsibility of the state to ensure HBWs’ participation in the formulation of different policies, their monitoring and implementation.

The Punjab government must promote collective bargaining and formal collective agreements with employers and/or with governments according to ILO Convention and ensure fair and minimum wages, she demanded.

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