In Pakistan poverty reduction is not achievable without addressing the root causes of the low level of incomes and the high level of risks faced by working poor of informal sector. The root causes include not simply the lack of productive resources or economic opportunities, as they are working. What the working poor lack, more fundamentally, is the realization of a set of economic rights, including labour rights for informal wage workers and business rights for informal self-employed and, for both groups, property rights, the right to social protection, and the right to organization and representation.

To counter the exclusionary trend of many modernizing cities today, what is called for is a fundamental rethinking and reshaping of urban plans, regulations, and policies to incorporate the working poor. What is needed, first and foremost, is to recognize that the informal economy is part-and-parcel of the economy of towns and cities of the developing world. The informal economy is here to stay, and the towns and cities of tomorrow should  indeed must  remain hybrid` if urban poverty and urban violence are to be reduced. Towns and cities must allow street vendors, hawkers, small kiosks and shops to exist alongside large retail shops and malls; must incorporate waste pickers into modern solid waste management systems; and must support homebased production through basic infrastructure and appropriate zoning policies. This will require an inclusive, rather than exclusive, approach to urban infrastructure and services, urban zoning, urban regulations and laws, and urban plans and policies. This, in turn, will require inclusive urban planning processes in which representatives of the working poor have a voice.

The importance of this project is that it will be helpful to know more about what is probably the least acknowledged and least understood type of worker among the major groups of urban poor informal workers. Homebased workers  the focus of the HomeNets` work with urban poor informal workers are among the most vulnerable of all informal workers. Because they do not work in public spaces (they work in their own homes, or in very small workshops near their homes), homebased workers are generally not open to public view. They are at the bottom of value/supply chains and are easily exploited by contractors and subcontractors, given the fact that the majority of homebased workers in South Asia are poor women who lack access to education and resources and find it very difficult to speak for themselves, particularly in rigid patriarchal societies and because of prevailing ideologies, they are not even given the rights accorded to other recognized workers`, and are assumed to be earning supplementary incomes`  i.e., supplemental to their husband`s income even though they are often the sole breadwinner in the family. In fact, even as co-breadwinners, their earnings are usually crucial to the survival of the family, a fact that is rarely recognized or acknowledged because it would indicate how much higher their wages should actually be (they earn a fraction of what is paid in a factory environment, for example, even though they produce the same goods and absorb the overhead costs themselves).It is not possible for all homebased workers to find other types of employment with higher earnings and better working conditions. With rapid urbanization, occupations such as factory work, street vending and domestic work are quickly saturated.

Project Objectives

This is a global collaborative project with the following Common Core Objectives shared by all the groups involved:

  • To improve the organizational strength and bargaining-negotiating-advocacy capacity of the Membership-Based Organizations (MBOs) of homebased workers, street vendors, and waste pickers and to assist them in achieving their needs and goals for supportive urban policies, as well as adequate housing, infrastructure, and other essential services.
  • To provide the research and statistics, good practice examples, and policy analysis that the Membership-Based Organizations (MBOs) of urban working poor need to pursue their activities and campaign objectives for 2009-2013.
  • To educate key policymakers at the local, national, and international levels by disseminating research findings, statistical data, and policy analysis to illuminate the issues faced by the urban working poor.
  • To raise awareness among policymakers of the need and benefits of including the urban working poor with in an inclusive approach to city planning, captured in the phrase World Class Cities for All`.