Home workers suffer in isolation

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LAHORE: There are 20 million home-based workers (HBWs) in Pakistan and more than 71% (two-thirds) are women.

Most of them are pieceworkers, involved in manufacturing and post-manufacturing tasks, such as garment sewing, embroidery, knitting, carpet weaving and hand looms, woodworking, shoemaking and other handicrafts, bracelet making, fruit and vegetable processing and packaging, etc.

Sometimes their work is linked to international brands through the factories producing for these brands.

Shamim and seven women from her neighborhood sew women’s clothing. They received as little as Rs8 to sew pants. Pants take 20 minutes to sew, the women said.

Even if they managed to sew three pants in one hour, they earned Rs24 for one hour of work. If they worked eight hours like that, they earned no more than 192 rupees. What? Only Rs192 for a day’s work? The minimum wage was then Rs 20,000 per month. According to this minimum wage, a worker’s salary should be more than 650 rupees per day.

These homeworkers who live in Baghbanpura decided that they would not accept less than 15 rupees to sew trousers and passed it on to the man who brought them work and collected the finished products. Their request was not met and they settled at Rs10 per piece. Even if they had managed to earn 15 rupees a piece and worked eight hours, that would be less than half the minimum wage for a day’s work.

Poor women are uneducated. They don’t know the math, don’t know how to calculate fair wages, and therefore suffer greatly.

The Punjab government has formulated a homeworker policy and law, the “Punjab Homeworker Act, 2013” ​​which was passed by the assembly in June 2021.

The question is whether the Homeworkers Bill 2021 has made a difference in the lives of workers. He does not have. The Domestic Workers Bill is also there. Even trade rules have been established, but what difference has it made in the lives of those for whom it is intended. The problem comes from the implementation.

Jalwat Ali, a workers’ rights campaigner who has been on the front lines demanding legislation for homeworkers, calls the workers “frightened”.

“There is a thinking problem. No one is ready to sacrifice themselves. There is a leadership crisis,” she said.

“Even in the formal sector, people work 12 to 14 hours in the textile sector and earn between 13,000 and 17,000 rupees, which is below the minimum wage, whether they are men or women,” she said. declared.

Ume Laila of Homenet Pakistan held a consultation with homeworkers who revealed that they cannot eliminate the middleman from their system as they are the basis of the market. On the other hand, the middlemen try to get the homeworkers to do the work for as little money as possible.

A number of these women complained of a lot of inconvenience at home due to lack of resources and time. Some complained of violence. Work that brings in little money takes up all the time of these women who also have to take care of household chores. Little money means a lot of people live under one roof and support more people than is desirable. Unfair wages perpetuate poverty.

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