The Opportunities for HBWs in Purview of Draft Policy for HBWs and Post Devolution Scenario

One day National Consultation on the Opportunities for HBWs in purview of Draft Policy of HBWs and Post devaluation scenario was held on 29 October 2011 at Lahore with a the focus on Provincial Sharing, Challenges, Opportunities and Way forward.

The National consultation was intended to provide a platform to the Provincial policy makers to have an insight in to the provincial situation, develop coordination and harmony among various ministries, and work collectively for the development provincial frameworks keeping in view the particular provincial realties.The meeting was addressed by the The Minister Labour Sindh, Amir Nawab, Advisor to Chief Minister Sindh, Taj Haider, Minister for Women Development Sindh, Touqir Fatima Bhutto, Member Punjab Assembly, Faiza Malik, Additional Secretary Women development Balochistan, Salma Qureshi, Secretary Social Welfare Fazal Abbas, Director Labour Punjab, Sabir Sheikh, Former MPA and Social Activist Mehnaz Rafi. However a number of participants comprising Political representatives, media personnel’s, Home Based Workers, Domestic Workers and Trade Union Representatives attended the meeting.Outcomes: Increased awareness of the issue of informal sector, specifically home based work and its importance as major contributor in National GDP.Larger sharing of the process of Policy finalization and legislation at Provincial and National level.Deliberations on the New Provincial Plan of Action and Institutional Mechanism for labour laws.Mainstreaming of Home-based Workers in Policy, Legislation and Labour Administration in the Provinces.Increased visibility and recognition of HBWs issues and their rights.Recommendations:Devolution of powers, especially the economic powers to the provinces and through them to the elected local bodies for taking socio-economic development measures to the grass-roots levels and to empower those that are the productive backbone of the country but are voiceless and powerless like the HBW’s in the country.The provincial governments and institutions under the principles of 18th Amendment have to ensure education levels and skill enhancements on international standards in their respective provinces.

Home-based women workers Punjab govt asked to review the draft policy

From the Newspaper Dawn

October 14, 2011

LAHORE, Oct 13: The Punjab government should review the existing draft of the policy on home-based women workers and finalise it for legislation, as labour has been devolved to provinces after passage of the 18th Amendment.

The Punjab government has not taken any concrete measures in this regard, said a resolution adopted at a one-day provincial consultation on labour issues and post-18th Amendment in the context of legislation on home-based workers at a hotel on Thursday.

Former MNA Mehnaz Rafi; MPAs Sajida Mir, Dr Amna Butter and Arifa Khalid; Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal (retired), SPO regional coordinator Salman Abid, Irfan Mufti of SAP-Pakistan, Advocate Khwaja Omer Masood, Punjab Labour Department director Sheikh Sabir and Labour Education Foundation director Khalid Mehmood besides representatives of member organisations from Multan, Faisalabad, Okara, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Muzaffargarh, Sargodha, Sheikhupura, Kasur and Lahore districts and Islamabad attended the consultation arranged by HomeNet Pakistan.

The resolution urged the government to first collect data on home-based workers at the union council level so that effective legislation could be finalized and implemented. It laid stress on parliamentarians, particularly members of the Punjab Assembly, to play their role for the approval of the draft of the policy for home-based workers.

Earlier, HomeNet Pakistan executive director Ume Laila Azhar said Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan assemblies passed resolutions, recommending their chief ministers to notify provincial councils for home-based workers.

From macro to microcosm

From The News International

October 2012By Irfan MuftiPakistan has a weak industrial base ever since its independence. Though industrialization is regarded as essential for rapid development few countries have focused on industrial growth, labour development and market enhancement as main national agenda.The countries that solely relied on agriculture have remained poor and underdeveloped, whereas nations that gave weight to rapid development to industry achieved high rates of development.Advanced countries like America, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and fast-growing economies like China, India, Brazil, and South Africa encouraged industrialization on a large scale. The advantages of technological change were channeled into agriculture. They developed industry which also brought a revolution by mechanizations in the agricultural sector. The national income increased. The balance of payments considerably improved. There was an increase in employment. In return, these countries achieved balanced growth in various sectors of the economy.Since independence, successive governments in Pakistan have been utilizing resources – domestic as well as external – for industrial growth. However, results were not according to the expectations and the industrial sector remained largely dependent, thriving on subsidies and government incentives.The sector is inherently weak and has failed to graduate from the status of a trading class to the level of entrepreneurship. It still cannot survive in a competitive environment. It has routinely claimed the absence of an enabling investment environment within the country but has failed to make its mark abroad, even where a congenial enabling environment is available. Among various factors of sluggish industrial growth is that labour force are not regarded as main stakeholders of industrial and trade growth thus lost initiative, ownership, and incentive.Pakistan, over these years, developed a diversified bases in manufactures ranging from essential consumer goods of chemicals steel, heavy engineering, and machines and tool industries. Domestic production of items such as refined sugar steel, fertilizer, cement, etc, is helping in import substitution and saves foreign exchange.Industrial evolution in Pakistan can be categorized into four stages. From 1950s to the early 1960s the growth was slow due to lack of capital, technical know-how, absence of entrepreneurship, etc. However, in the early 1960s a large number of new industries, such as woolen and worsted yarn, cycle tyre and tubes, paints, varnishes and glass were established. The production capacity of the already existing units like fertilizers, jute, paper, DDT was considerably expanded. The reduction of export duties and the introduction of export bonus scheme increased export of the manufactured goods. There was all round development of industries particularly in agricultural processing food products and textiles.In the decades of 1960s and 70s the incentive-push environments for investment, better co-ordination between industrial corporations, and above all political stability led to the widening of industrial base. The country achieved self-sufficiency in essential consumer items. There was a shift in the establishment of consumer goods industries to heavy industries. In short, the industrial performance in terms of growth, export and productivity increased during this decade.From the 1970s onwards, the industrial performance in terms of growth, exports and production was disappointing. Various reasons can be cited for the poor performance of the manufacturing sector. Separation of East Pakistan, war with India, the suspension of foreign aid, loss of indigenous market in East Pakistan, fall in exports, devaluation to the extent of 131 percent, nationalisation of industries, etc, caused a fall in the output of large scale industries. The annual growth rate fell to 2.8 percent in the industrial sector in this period.The 1973 nationalisation programme, which placed 10 basic industries wholly within the public sector, was reversed in 1991 with the enactment of an ambitious privatization program. In 1992, the government began auctioning off majority control in nearly all public sector industrial enterprises, including those manufacturing chemicals, fertilizers, engineering products, petroleum products, cement, automobiles, and other industrial products requiring a high level of capital investment, to private investors. In 1995, however, the speed of privatization began to slow down.The share of industrial sector was 18.2 percent in GDP in 2003-04 and decreased to 15.6 percent in 2004-05 and remained in this range ever since. The main factors which contributed to rapid economic growth supporting were monetary policy, financial discipline, consistency and continuity of development policies, strengthening of domestic demand continuously improving macroeconomic environment, a stable rate global expansion of markets due to liberalization of trade in 2005.The overall manufacturing recorded growth of 9.9 percent in 2005-06 and 8.45 percent in 2006-07. However, what is not recognised and acknowledged for this impressive growth and achievements of industrial sector were the contribution and hard work of industrial labor and informal workers. The privatised industrial units relied mainly on informal or piece rate workers that are involved in manufacturing and post-manufacturing tasks such as embroidery, carpet weaving and handlooms, woodwork and other handicrafts, bangle making, leather products, soccer ball production, dates cleaning, food packing and other smaller tasks.Massive deregulation and privatisation of the economic system under neo-liberal policies promoted the broadening of the informal sector labour economy with various forms of underpaid and insecure work expanding such as contractual, temporary as well as piece-rate work.Piece rate work is carried out at home, in squatter settlement neighborhoods as well as in the rural areas. Although men are also part of this labour force, it is believed that a vast majority of home-based work is carried out by women; this particular labour sector is now often labeled as Homebased Workers (HBWs).This global phenomenon of increase in the number of homebased workers, as well as intensification of the quantity and category of work in this sector was also felt in the Pakistan’s informal labour sector. Ironically, this intensification of women labour and workforce coupled with worst social, legal, political and economic indicators in Pakistan marginalised women and further exacerbated their socio-economic conditions.According to recent surveys, the total workforce of homebased work force came to approximately 12 million women. The homebased women’s urban work force was estimated to be 3 (26 percent) million and the rural work force 9 (74 percent) million.Increase in inflation and poor economic growth resulted in the massive presence of homebased women workers since 1990. The major reason for women to be engaged in homebased work was poverty and inability to make ends meet due to rising inflation. For women workers in Pakistan, external market forces and internal factors such as patriarchy and feudal control suppressed their visibility, severally limiting their mobility and giving them little or no access to education.These homebased workers are bounded by values that have emerged from a feudal society, while also encountering the harsh realities of a changing economic and social contexts and poverty. This is a form of labour that only gives women just enough revenue to avoid hunger, while the misery of poverty persists. Several Asian Tigers including Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand not only recognized but harmonized the potential of such semi-skilled informal homebased workers and used them as drivers their impressive economic development.In Pakistan, however, this work force is not only grossly neglected but on the mercy and whims of market forces and investors. No law or policy guarantees basic rights of this large workforce. This productive work force is not recognised as ‘workers’, hence cannot qualify for formal social protection mechanisms. They form 65 percent of total women workforce but are the least-paid and most-exploited in the value chain of production processes.Most of these women workers are handicapped due to limited mobility and negligible understanding of market pricing mechanism. So, they are unable to negotiate for decent wages, reasonable working hours and conditions. In the absence of any legal or policy protection and rights they are exploited by middlemen, factory owners, market forces and industrialists.Paradoxically, the government has also not recognised the status and contribution of this work force. In many parts of the third world, including Pakistan, there are continuous efforts to pressure governments to provide worker status to homebased workers. For instance, in Pakistan, a draft national policy for homebased workers is still pending acceptance. In addition, the ILO Home Base Work Convention 1996 (C 177) still awaits ratification by the government. After 18th constitutional amendment labour development has become provincial chapter. No significant efforts to introduce policies or laws have been initiated thus far.Homebased worker unions and federations all over south Asian countries will be celebrating week of action starting October 20, 2011. Groups in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives will be celebrating their achievements and committing for continued struggle. Homebased workers in Pakistan have little to celebrate as their struggle to have better policies and laws guaranteeing rightful status and conditions are far from achieving basic results. Government, investors, industrialists and civil society in Pakistan need to collectively understand and decide how they want to see the potential and contribution of these women workers in the economic planning and growth of this country. The answer will determine economic development of this country.The writer is Deputy Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global Campaigner irfanmufti@gmail.comPakistan, was published by Vanguard Press, Lahore, in October 2010.

My brothers don’t like my going out from home

My brothers don’t like my going out from home

From The Express Tribune20 October, 2011LAHORE: Amina Bibi, a 27-year-old mother of three, does ‘adda work’ six to eight hours a day at her parents’ home in Shalimar Town. Adda work is a type of embroidery on dupattas and dresses. A suit costs between Rs8,000 to Rs15,000. Amina gets Rs 200 to 300 for one duppata or suit. Sometimes it takes her a week to complete one suit.Amina, one of millions of home-based workers in South Asia, knows her work is worth more than she gets, but there’s not much she can do about it. “I live at my parents’ home and my brothers don’t like my going out to visit markets. So I am dependent on the contractor who takes orders and raw materials from different factories/designers and hires women like me to get the work done,” she says.Organizations working for the rights of women and home-based workers are observing the first ever Home Based Workers Day on October 20 (today) in Pakistan, with an aim to get appropriate wages to millions of workers like Amina who are not registered with any government department in Pakistan. Recent surveys put the number of such workers at 7.2 million in Punjab. Around 80 percent of home-based workers are women, who are often not allowed to go out for work or who don’t have direct access to markets and depend on middlemen to get work. According to data compiled by the Labour Department and non-government organizations (NGOs), home-based workers make up 70 per cent of the informal workforce.The Labour Department has drafted a provisional policy for the registration and regulation of home-based workers, but the policy is still with the office of the chief secretary. The draft policy states there are an estimated 8.52 million home-based workers in the country of which 65 percent are women.Labour Director Saeed Awan said that the policy had been drafted and awaits approval. “Different NGOs are also on board on this issue to help out HBWs,” he said.”There is no safety net or social security system for HBWs in Pakistan,” said Ume Laila Azhar, executive director of HomeNet Pakistan, an NGO. “They are not even recognised as labour. All four provincial governments need to make their HBW policies to regulate millions of these workers. They should be registered and brought under the social security net. We helped the provincial government in Punjab to draft the policy which is still pending,” she added.HomeNet is organising a series of events on the first South Asian Home Based Workers’ Day to commemorate the Kathmandu Declaration 2000 on home-based workers, said Azhar.”The HBWs day will be celebrated simultaneously in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The mega regional event is in Nepal where HBWs and supporters from all over South Asia are joining to meet and celebrate the day,” she said.

Exhibition of Homebased Workers Products

Hotel Ambassador, Lahore

Date: 27-10-2011One day handicraft exhibition of the products prepared by HBWs was also arranged with this National Conference held on 27th October 2011 at Lahore as an important part and an opportunity for women workers to sell their products and book orders. The exhibition was inaugurated by Minister of Labour Sindh and Nigar Ahmad together. Ten best stalls were given certificates of appreciation.

The dark story of black economy

The dark story of black economy From Pakistan Today

4 October, 2011Razia Baji, as she is popularly known in her area took me to various homes in the “Katchi Abadi” of Kot Lakhphat Lahore where hundreds of craftswomen were striving for a living for their families. Commonly called home based workers, these women were largely dependent on Razia Baji to provide them with orders. Razia runs her own school; her active lifestyle and social demeanour led her to become councillor in 2002. Politics exposed Razia to new avenues, one being the wide and expensive field of NGOs thriving with opportunities for people with unlimited ambitions. After joining a local and leading NGO in Lahore, Razia assumed the image of a Godfather to salvage womenfolk of her area from the ruthless arms of poverty and growing injustice of society. With an apparent aim to empower women financially, Razia Baji as a middle person began securing orders from merchants of different trades: embroidered clothes, bangles, handmade laces, readymade garments etc, for these less privileged women, living in barely one and a half room shanties. Once the beginner’s romance was over, Razia started charging commission against any order she provided to these home based workers. The irony was that none of these workers knew the exact market price of the work they were doing. Whatever Razia Baji gave them on the delivery of the order, which has always been too little compared to the work, was accepted. Against any economic theory the more these women worked the poorer they got. However, Razia in the meantime got richer and obtrusive. When I met these women none of them wanted to speak out, on my insistence, and once I fell out with Razia over her nagging interference, these women talked about the blackmailing they had to bear from Razia in case they refused to comply with the price she offered or the deadline she chose for the completion of the order. Unfortunately these women realise that they would at least be able to provide two secure meals a day for their families, hence refusing Razia has become almost impossible for them. They sit in shanties with their children about them to earn for the day ahead. This single story has many angles to it. This is a narrative of poverty, exploitation and shattered ambition. It is an account of an informal economy that has morphed itself into various shapes to hoodwink the specter of regulatory systems, labour force, work ethics and the supply chain.The evolution of the informal economy: Informal economy is a concept disdained by the regulatory system that seeks a share from the profits of any organisation for developmental purposes. Tax payer money, as this share is commonly known, goes into cultivating an atmosphere favourable to businesses in terms of progressive and reliable infrastructure. Precisely it is all about building society one way or the other. From lending employment opportunities to giving taxes, while in many instances generating foreign reserves, organisations bring prosperity to a society. Ideally, this collective good should have been a driving force for people to work within the regulatory system of a given country. However, for years a relatively large population of business community has been working outside this fold by choice. This trend has been increasingly observed more in developing countries than the developed ones. Lack of taxes, poor compliance (hence enforcement), simple production processes, costless entry and exit for manufacturing sector, and cheap labour are said to be a few main causes behind the evolution of the informal sector.The economic contribution of informal sector is estimated to be around 36 per cent of the GDP. To have left such a big population on the mercy of unregulated working environment is akin to crime says Ume Laila, Executive Director HomeNet a Lahore based NGO. Laila has been working relentlessly persuading Pakistan government to identify and incentivise informal sector to for regulation, since women and children employed in it to a greater number appear to be the primary loser. “What I am trying to hammer down to our officials is that in the absence of any legal binding, employers do not only exploit workers through low wages, but go as far as making them work extra hours at times in insecure and hazardous environment without shouldering social security burden of the labour,” she said. According to one of the studies conducted by HomeNet, we have come to know that due to recurring outages and unreliable business policies of the government many industrialists have shut down their factories to operate through home based unregulated industries. It is more economical and practical for apparel, shoes, readymade garments and many sports item businesses to gather a few women in a small home or for that matter order their work to different households, than to run a factory and shoulder extra cost in terms of legal wages, social security expenses, coupled with the rising cost of production in the wake of energy crisis in Pakistan making their product uncompetitive locally as well as globally.Implementing reforms: What reforms should be introduced to incentivise the informal sector to become part of the economic system formally, Dr Qais Aslam, a renowned economist of Pakistan, suggested that the government work to formalise the gray economy, by improving the monitoring system to ensure product, environment and pricing standards already stipulated in law. On the implementation side we lack serious lapses in monitoring these standards resultantly we have multiple issues; from degenerated products to price stickiness and environmental hazards. Once the government gets serious in seeing through the implementation of law in its letter and spirit much of the informal sector would automatically start getting formalised. There is a dire need of understanding the notion called “Right of Collective Struggle.” This economic idea is clearly mentioned in our statutory books that seek to defend the rights of labour. It is the duty of the Government to institutionalise protection of community through its arms of law while on the flip side people should also know how to voice their problems. Toward this end the importance of education comes in, education not in its strict academic sense but in the sense of knowing ones rights. Unless people know what they should expect from their employers things would not improve. Many NGOs and private organisations are working toward this end but again unless the government functionaries be it the Police officer, the Revenue officer or the Judicial officer cooperates no good can come out of knowing ones rights. It is because of the inefficiency of our government functionaries that bonded labour or Middle man exploitation has inflicted informal sector so profoundly or for that matter the informal sector is ballooning out. Usually the business owners in informal sectors especially in the brick kiln business are powerful people either part of the government or having strong linkages with police and judiciary. We can lend legitimisation to informal sector by introducing the concept of “zoning”, wherein though the basic law of the country remains identical, the problem solving mechanism for each zone is made to suit that zone’s peculiar problems. Finally the government has to establish its writ. People should know that: they have to pay taxes, they cannot evade utility bills and that pricing is as much a government concern as it is of markets’. When such checks and balances are not put in place then even the formal sector begins slipping into the informal one to save costs and make hey on the cost of government’s complacency.”

Durdana Najam is a freelance financial journalist based in Lahore she can be reached at