KARACHI, Nov 6: Civil society organisations and trade unions on Wednesday asked the government to approve the policy draft for home-based workers (HBWs), lying with the Sindh cabinet for the past two-and-a-half-months.

The executive director of HomeNet Pakistan Ume Laila Azhar, regional coordinator of HomeNet Pakistan Nuzhat Shirin and others said this while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club.

`Pakistan is now well aware of the fact that the burden of poverty falls more heavily on women of households. Women working in houses to earn money are HBWs,` they said.

Ms Shirin said that the HomeNet along with its member organisations was striving for the recognition of HBWs in Pakistan and advocating for policy and legislation for them.

Ms Azhar said that the government had shown a commitment to redress injustices by taking the initiative to finalise the provincial policy on the HBWs, Sindh Policy for the HBWs, to recognise them as `workers` and extend social protection to the `invisible workers` of Pakistan who were silent contributors to the gross domestic product of the country.

She said that 65 per cent of HBWs in Pakistan approximately 12 million were unrecognised as they were not considered workers under the existing labour definitions in the country.

`They need to be declared workers and need to be counted; need to be protected and promoted by progressive legislation and social protection policies,` she said.

`They need to be honoured for the silent contribution and for the support they are providing to the economy at this critical juncture,` she added.

She also applauded the efforts of the Sindh labour department in finalising the provincial policy for HBWs.

`The policy provides a broader framework for protection to HBWs by registering them as workers, linking them with social security, Employees` Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), easy credit schemes, vocational and skill training opportunities and provides a very progressive implementation framework for upgrading livelihoods of home-based workers of Sindh.

Ms Rubina of the Aurat Foundation Karachi highlighted vulnerabilities faced by HBWs in Sindh and called for approval of the policy for HBWs and their registration as workers.

Nasir Mansoor of the NTUF said that minimum wage was the right of every worker.

`The determination of the minimum wage is crucial for home-based workers,` said Mr Nasir while calling upon the government to hold consultative processes with workers federations to finalise the minimum wages for the HBWs of Sindh.

He assured full support of workers federation in supporting the home-based worker’s cause.

Mr Nayyar of Piler said the issue of HBWs should be included in all labour agendas and frameworks.

`HBWs are the major part of the informal sector and this sector in Pakistan is the backbone of the economy and yet they are un recognised and unorganised,` he added.

`The need of the hour is that HBWs policy is put in place and the Sindh government take affirmative and concrete steps for assuring its implementation,` he said.

He added that it was the responsibility of all workers organisations, national trade unions, federations and confederations to join hands in solidarity with home-based workers in building pressure on the government of Sindh to timely approve this policy. Zehra Khan from HBWs Federation said that HBWs were waiting for the policy approval and looking forwards to its successful implementation at all levels.

The speakers said that immediate approval and implementation of the HBWs policy would have a direct effect on community women and it would bring a change to their lives.

They called upon the Sindh government to recognise the home-based workers as `workers`.

They also called for prioritising the adoption of the provincial policy on HBWs and ensuring its proper implementation so as to guarantee women access to social security benefits, and, take measures to ensure that the correspondent policy was implemented at all levels across the province.

They urged the government to develop and adopt legislative frameworks around HBWs needs providing them protection and promoting their skills for the national and international markets.

They also called for ratifying ILO Convention No 177 on home-based work and including the HBWs category as a category of `work` in labour statistics and labour force surveys.