The Dilemma of Developing Countries

In many developing countries, and lately increasingly so in many industrialized countries, the vast scale and rate of growth of the informal sector presents a dilemma and a challenge for governments, social partners and the civil society alike. A dilemma, as the informal sector encompasses employment situations which not only differ from those in the formal sector, but also infringe upon established rules and laws. A challenge, as it absorbs a large and growing fraction of the labour force and provides a “safety net” for the poor, finding themselves excluded from formal employment and income opportunities. The growing informalization of the economy has caused a rise in the number of women who work – participation rates of women in the informal sector. The selfless back-breaking effort of women home based workers is not recognized by those who make development plans and policies and allocate resources. We have no law on our statutes that recognizes them as workers and we have hardly any surveys that claim to give any reliable statistics about women home-based workers. With no legal identity and no statistical data, hardly any resources would be allocated for them even by the most gender sensitive of planners.

The global economic recession is negatively affecting workers everywhere. Media and policy makers have focused on the rising unemployment of formal salaried workers. Less attention, however, has been paid to the impact of the crisis on in­formal organizations and workers, nor the consequences of new entrants into the informal economy.

In reality, economic downturns often affect the informal economy in the same ways they affect the formal economy. Like formal firms, informal firms are affected by decreased demand, falling prices, and fluctuations in exchange rates associated with economic crises. Like formal wage workers, informal wage workers face loss of jobs or greater in formalization of their employment contracts. Indeed, during down­turns, informal wage workers are often the first to lose their jobs.

Informal workers, particularly women, tend to occupy the bottom of the global eco­nomic pyramid, with less protection and flexibility than their formal counterparts. Informal firms and wage workers, in times of economic trouble, have no cushion to fall back on and have no option but to keep operating or working. In addition, as more workers crowd into the informal economy, the net result is more-and-more firms or individuals competing for smaller-and-smaller slivers of a shrinking (in­formal) pie. Unemployment, in this instance, is eclipsed as an issue by increasing impoverishment – the working poor becoming poorer.

Pakistan, classified as low-income country, had 84.6 percent of its population earning less than US$2 per day.A 2008 UN assessment found vulnerable households spending up to 70 percent of their earnings on food, but remains unable to afford an adequate diet.

Manufacturing sector also registered a decline. Particularly large scale manufacturing went through a negative growth of 7.67 per cent during 2008-09 due to power shortage, shrinking demand in the export sector and deteriorating law and order in the country. Shrinking large scale manufacturing led to a steady cut in the protected (formal) employment and slipping of workers in to vulnerable employment. In contrast, small and medium manufacturing sector maintained its growth at 7.5 per cent. Again, this growth resulted in expansion of the informal labour faced with precarious work conditions.

The fundamental principles and rights at work are not applicable in the sector. Agricultural workforce is explicitly denied freedom of association, right to collective bargaining, elimination of child labour and non-discrimination in wages. Labour laws do not conform to the spirit of the Constitution embodied in its various Articles, specifically Article 17 (which ensures the right to form association or trade union to every citizen). None of the country’s labour law– either of industrial relations, social protection, minimum wages, or health and safety-applies to informal workers including agricultural workers. Though Pakistan has ratified all eight ILO core labour standards, it has not brought national legislation in compliance with the ILO Conventions No. 87 (freedom of association) and No. 98 (right to collective bargaining).

A Snapshot of HomeNet South Asia Visit to HomeNet Pakistan

Ms. Sapna Joshi and Sir Bipin Chandra visited HomeNet Pakistan in July 2010. During their stay (from 19th July to 25th July) in Pakistan, they visited Lahore, Kasur (Rasool Nagar), and Gujranwala to meet the HBWs and the government departments.

HNP arranged a dinner in the honor of Ms. Sapna Joshi and Sir Bipin Chandra and by this it gave them a chance to the network organizations to meet HNSA team.

18th Amendment: various aspects and their repercussions

By Dr Sabur Ghayur
Dawn: 17 May, 2010

The 18th constitutional amendment has withdrawn the powers of the national legislature to enforce laws on the 47 entries hitherto placed on the concurrent list. Importance of the much needed autonomy to the provincial governments on the matters essentially to be dealt at the provincial levels notwithstanding, our erstwhile parliamentarians did not realize that in their zest they have largely overlooked some important dimensions related to labour.

In the now defunct list, six entries covered labour-related matters, namely: (1) number 26 concerning welfare of labour, conditions of labour, provident fund, employers liability, workers compensation and health insurance, (2) number 27 concerning trade unions; and industrial and labour disputes, (3) number 28 concerning establishment of labour (employment) exchanges, employment information bureaus and training establishments, (4) number 30 concerning regulation of labour and safety in mines, factories and oil fields, (5) number 31 concerning unemployment insurance, and (6) number 45 concerning inquiries and statistics for the purpose of any matters in this list.

While the implementation of labour laws has been an area of concern, the 18th amendment has added new dimensions, especially with respect to conforming to international standards.

The assemblage at the Aiwan-e-Sadr of the key government functionaries witnessed the signing of the 18th amendment by the president, none realized these implications. Most important of them being the ones governing employer-employee relations, work place related issues, industrial disputes, and labour judiciary.

These were the areas that also figured predominantly in response to the government with regard to the observations of the International Labour Organization (ILO) committee of experts on application of conventions and recommendations (CEACR) on the reported violations and especially affecting improvements in the Industrial Relation Act-2008 (IRA-08). The application of the ILO instruments is examined even in terms of violations by this committee. It is an independent body that is comprised of legal experts; its annual report covers all matters concerning the application of ILO standards.

It was informed in June 2009 to the CEARC that the government of Pakistan has taken due consideration of the points highlighted, and extends its full cooperation in resolving the outstanding issues this (IRA-08) is a federal legislation which provides for a comprehensive system for the faithful enforcement of the provisions of Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention and aims to rationalize and consolidate the laws relating to formation of trade unions, and improvement of relations between employers and workers … a timeline has been defined where all the stakeholders will give their comments on the final draft of IRA 2008 by September 2009. This draft will then be analyzed with all the stakeholders in an all-inclusive meeting. After reaching a consensus, the same draft will be vetted by the ministry of law and justice, and shall be ready to be put up to the federal cabinet for approval. It is important to highlight that this timeline is projected at completing the consensus process before April 2010.

It is worth mentioning that Pakistan has ratified 34 ILO conventions. The ratifying member country is required to show the extent to which the law and practice conforms to the provisions of the convention. Furthermore, while ratifying a convention, a member-state agrees to make a detailed report to the ILO on the measures that it has taken with regard to the implementation of its different provisions.

While the cabinet assembled on May-Day -approved the new labour policy that was later announced by the prime minister at the Convention Hall, the country on the same day witnessed the lapse of the IRA-08. This act was promulgated with effect from 15th December, 2008 by repealing industrial relations ordinance of 2002. However, its section-87 (3) had made its life for a limited period by stipulating that ??this act unless repealed earlier stands repealed on 30th April, 2010. It lapsed despite the assurances given by the government to the ILO. With the lapse of the law on April 30th, the national industrial relations commission, labour appellate tribunals, all labour courts, and provincial and district registrars of trade unions technically have ceased to exist. Thousands of cases pending in these courts have been put on hold.

Such a situation warrants remedial measures. Of foremost importance is none else than a clear demarcation of the role of federal ministry of labour and manpower and its provincial counterparts with regard to formulating labour laws, on-going process of classification of labour laws, labour inspection and interaction with international organizations, in particular the ILO. Equally important is promulgation of an industrial relations act, which should exclusively focus on ensuring freedom of association and collective bargaining in all work places. It should also remove the numerous irritants in the defunct IRA-08.

Resolution of labour-related industrial disputes is a time-consuming litigation that entails a substantial financial cost. Prolongation in the settlement of industrial disputes also entails a social cost. The situation has to be reversed by developing an alternate dispute settlement mechanism.

Currently, Pakistan does not have a law exclusively dealing with occupational safety and health (OSH) of the workers. Furthermore, it is also important to point out that the existing legal provisions on OSH cover only a small proportion of the working population in special establishments. A concept paper was circulated in the Pakistan Tripartite Labour Conference (PTLC) held in February 2009; it was followed by a draft law circulated to the stakeholders. The OSH law has to be enacted, sooner the better.

Government is urged to appoint a high powered task force in consultation with the provincial governments to look into issues listed here, as well as other matters concerning labour-related entries in the defunct concurrent list, to develop a coordinating mechanism as well as consensus.



Ittehad Foundation Kasur (IFK) was established in 1998 as a non-profit organization, subsequently got registered in 2001 under the Registration Act 1961 DDSW-LD (Regd) 2001-1204 of Directorate of Social Welfare, Punjab.

Government assures the support for HBWs

HomeNet Pakistan arranged meetings with the parliamentarians and the Government officials of three provinces Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan from April to July 2010. HomeNet Pakistan through these meetings did advocacy with government officials for HBWs on the implementation process of National Policy for HBW that ensures the basic rights of HBWs as labors. Already existing laws and the social protection schemes were discussed during these meetings that could help improve the livelihood of HBWs and that how these schemes could give them benefit to HBWs keeping in view all the limitations that may come across in the implementation of the National Policy for HBWs.

The following outcomes were gathered from the three provinces after the discussion with the government officials of the respective provinces:

In Quetta

  • Representatives of EOBI and BESSI ensured to collaborate with HNP and cooperation in developing the brochures on EOBI and BESSI
  • Representative of BISP, offered the organization to give the name of deserving HBWs for the scheme of BISP and discussed the registration process, they also discussed the way of registration of HBWs within NADRA and BISP
  • All parliamentarians committed to bring the bill on the issue of social protection for HBW, for this purpose a committee comprising on Lawyers and other civil society representatives was also formed during the consultation.

In Lahore

  • HomeNet Pakistan will share all the data on HBWs with Directorate of Women Development so that it can do something worthy for the betterment of HBWs.
  • Directorate of Women Development ensured its support for advocacy for HBWs. HNP will provide a collective data of HBWs to BISP for its special focus on HBWs.
  • The budget for the women empowerment will be used for providing HBWs a decent livelihood.

In Karachi

  • Sindh Labour Minister Ameer Nawab said that after the 18th amendment as the labor issues had been handed to the provinces, these will be solved easily and quickly.
  • Soon some procedure, which is under consideration, will be formulated as to how these workers can get themselves registered with the government.
  • Tauqeer Fatima, Minister of Women Development told the participants that her ministry has approached the federal government to allocate a regular quota for women home-based workers under the Benazir Bhutto Income Support Program.

Naseem Bibi: Case Study

A 25 year old Naseem Bibi is a Home-based worker living in Faisalabad. She is illiterate and did not get married due to domestic issues. She lives with her parents. Naseem adopted a baby girl from her brother with her. Naseem earns her living by cleaning the pulses thus she hardly earns Rs. 2,000 per month. She feels that she work very hard and remuneration too low. She knows middle person exploit to her but she is bound to continue her work.

Naseem said we don’t have social security. We are the most deprived people because we are not given the facilities like that of factory or industrial workers. I am thankful to HomeNet Pakistan, it raised awareness among us. Now we know our rights and thus we can raise our voice for social security. As Home based worker I think, the condition of education, medicine, daily wages, working hours and other advantages of workers should be improved.

She knows middle person exploits her but she is bound to continue working with him. She has not any other option of earning. It is the only source of her income to support herself and her family.

Naseem Bibi is very hopeful of the National Policy for Home-Based workers. She said National Policy is a ray of hope for home-based workers, if National Policy will be implemented we will also be considered as workers and our basic rights may be saved, being a Home based worker I hope for implementation of National Policy. Naseem bibi is not linked with any organization. But she wants that there must be a group of HBWs in their area so that they might be organized and get benefits.

Salma Rani, around 40 years old, living in Abbas Nagar, Gujranwala, is meeting her both ends by doing embroidery and stone work on shirts and dupatas. She gets 100 to 150 rupees for a shirt and dupata that she prepares in 2 days. She said, with great grief, “on the one hand the middle person pays very low and then he becomes crueler for us when we do not get our payments regularly.

Policy Dialogue on Pakistan’s Economy Challenges and Opportunities and way forward

On 28 May 2010
at Holiday Inn, Lahore

HomeNet Pakistan organized a one day Policy Dialogue on the Economic challenges to Pakistan Economy and Challenges, opportunities and way forward on 28 May 2010 in Lahore.

In recent years in particular, the manufacturing sector has confronted a number of internal as well as external challenges that caused negative growth during 2008-09, said Ume Laila Azhar , Executuive Director , Homenet Pakistan.

Though, the impact of a weakened economy on employment opportunities, in general, has been rather limited, apparently, its impact on women during the present economic crisis has been disproportionately more intense leading to their social isolation, psychological trauma, reduced level of nutrition, school drop out of girls. In urban areas, on the other hand female participation has been limited to a lower cadre work force, both in offices and factories.

Advisor to the Chief Minster Punjab Mrs Zakia Shahnawaz Chaired the Policy Dialogue. Among panelist were Ms Aqsa Khan who gave her inputs on the Feminization of Poverty and its impact on the HBWs. Dr. Nadia Saleem highlighted the Gender Gaps .Dr Zafar Mueen Nasir gave his insights on the Gender Gaps in formal and informal sector and its effects on women. Dr Sabur Ghayour disussed the labour laws situation in country and highlighted the gaps in the labour policy 2010. Mr Adan Adil discussed the links of economy with the present situation of laborer and especially women workers either in formal or informal sector. In the closing session Mr Abid Hassan Minto, a seasoned lawyer, in detail discussed the present constitutional bindings and the 18 Amendments.


During the policy dialogue the house gave the following recommendations: Strengthening Social Dialogue Mechanism, Labour Judicial System to be strengthened, Social Safety net, Elimination of Gender Discrimination, Social protection to Seasonal Workers, Regulation of Contract work, Rights of Workers in the Event of Privatization, Occupational Safety and Health, Minimum Wages, Health and safety, Social Security and the Registration of Informal Workers (HBWs).

The Other Side of World Cup Footballs

By Zofeen Ebrahim

KARACHI, Pakistan, Jul 1, 2010 (IPS) – England coach Fabio Capello has bemoaned the unpredictable trajectory of the Jabulani World Cup ball, calling it “the worst ball”in the history of the tournament. But labour rights groups have a greater complaint.

The workers producing the footballs are seeing little improvement in their lives, say labour rights groups, who decry that only a small fraction of the profits trickle down to those toiling away in factories, stitching centres and homes.

Up till the late 1990s, Pakistan was commanding as much as 85 percent of the world’s market in football production, employing a workforce of 85,000 to produce 60 million balls per year worth 210 million U.S. dollars, said a report in English-language daily Express Tribune.

The South Asian country is now down to just getting between 30 to 40 percent of the world’s orders for footballs.

While Pakistan failed to qualify for the last FIFA World Cup in Germany, it still made its presence felt in every match. The footballs used in the 2006 FIFA World Cup were hand-stitched in Sialkot, a city in the north-east of the Punjab province famous for manufacture of sports goods and surgical instruments.

For the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, however, Adidas decided for the Jabulani footballs the official match ball — to be machine-made in China.

Arshid Mehmood Mirza, executive director of Bedarie, a non-governmental organisation working for the protection of women’s rights, has been working for the rights of workers in the football trade for over 15 years. “It is unfortunate the Pakistani football industry has not keep pace with the technological advancements,” he lamented.

However, it is the use of child labour that has been cited as the major factor in bringing the football-production industry in Pakistan crumbling down.

In 1996, the world learnt through an exposé in Life magazine that Pakistani children were stitching soccer balls for six cents an hour.

They have to be seen as Workers

They work long hours in cramped, ill-lit and badly ventilated dwellings. They sew pre-cut shalwars for Re 1 or Rs 2 each. They fill tamarind in cellophane packets and earn Re 1 for a dozen packets. They fill matchboxes and make Rs 6 for filling 1,000 boxes. After spending two weeks embroidering a dupatta and kameez set, they get between Rs 150 and Rs 200. They string a dozen badminton rackets and earn between Rs 6 and Rs 10. They stitch grade A footballs for Rs 18 each though only last year they were getting Rs 34. Who are they? They are among the poorest of the poor. They are home-based women workers.

Since the work requires little or no skill, it is easy for the women to get work, but they can lose it just as easily, especially if they protest the rates of wages or the regularity of work. With such high rates of unemployment they are grateful for what they can get, even if it is ??hawai kaam??, work that disappears with the wind. Despite the miserable conditions of work and pitiful wages—sometimes given months after the work is done???lt;strong>their main demand when asked what they want is more work.

With 30% of the population of Pakistan unable to fulfil its minimum food requirements, another 20% barely able to meet their other basic needs, it is not surprising that these women continue to work under these conditions. If there is to be any substantive alleviation of poverty in the country, then the livelihood conditions of home-based women workers, a major section of society, need to be changed drastically.

For this the first requirement is that they should be recognised not just as poor women, deserving of charity and some welfare schemes. They have to be seen as workers. They have to be seen as producers. Their output has to be increased with skill development training, improved technologies, access to credit and direct access to the market. They also need to be adequately reflected in statistics and recognised as workers in the labour laws of the country, thus making them eligible for social protection

There is a need for a national policy and a programme that addresses the women homeworkers???issues of raising income, provision of social security, organisation and political recognition. This is why Aurat Foundation facilitated the formation of HomeNet Pakistan to work with HomeNet South Asia, a network of organisations working for the recognition of women homeworkers and for an improvement in their working and living conditions. Formed in 2001 with financial support from UNIFEM, its member countries are Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.