Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

'Situation and Scope' of Existing Labour Laws to Address the Issues of Home-Based Women Workers in Pakistan

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

'Situation and Scope' of Existing Labour Laws to Address the Issues of Home-Based Women Workers in Pakistan

Article excerpt


Home-based work is not a new phenomenon. Since ages, the people had been conducting home-based economic activities throughout the world. Home-based work cannot be viewed as only a production sector, rather it covers a range of "industries", categories of "trades", dynamic "occupations" and diversified "activity statuses" (Sudarshan & Sinha, 2011). Pakistan is one of those countries where home-based remunerative work is carried out on a large scale (Lari & Zaman, 2013). However, reliable statistics and accurate data on home-based women workers are not available. Pakistan Economic Survey (2009) estimates 8.52 million home-based women labourers in Pakistan, representing 70% of the country's total labour force. Recent wave of globalization, cost effectiveness considerations on the part of manufacturers and lack of formal employment opportunities have given a tremendous increase to outsourcing work to home-based workers, mostly consisted of women, and their work setting is mostly their home (Unni & Scaria, 2009). Roughly, more than 100 million home-based workers are working within the confines of their homes in the whole world. In South Asia alone, more than 50 million home-based workers are present and out of these, approximately 80% are women (HNSA, 2013). In Pakistan, mostly the women are employed in informal sector and, in 2008, the women constituted 71.7% of the total labour force of the country (Saigol, 2011).

The home-based work has a significant contribution in the country's economy as it has become a major source of providing earning opportunities to the poor and less privileged segments of the society. This requires the attention of the policy makers and all the state forces to address the resultant changes in economic trends, family dynamics, gender patterns, local resource utilization and indigenous mode of production. These home-based women workers are not only engaged in producing traditional art and craft based items like embroidery, sewing, dyeing; but also engaged in producing export based and fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) and manufacturing products for multinational companies, such as carpet weaving, soccer stitching, garment making (Lari & Zaman, 2013). Despite of the fact that they are major contributors in the national economy, they are not considered as 'labourers'. They remain invisible in national statistics and public discourse, undervalued in value chain and labour markets, unacknowledged in policy making and legal frameworks (ILO, 2010; Saigol, 2011; HNSA, 2013).

Besides the reasons identified by Hassan & Azman (2014), such as, illiteracy, lack of awareness and access to various provisions, limited skill set, low wage work involvement; the poverty and socio-culturally embedded gender discrimination were found to be the major reasons of women's increased participation in homebased work in South Asian countries (Bajaj, 1999; Doane, 2007; Mehrota & Biggeri, 2002; Sudarshan & Jhabvala, 2006). Higher level of poverty and more involvement of children in home-based economic activities at early ages were also reported in a research conducted by Homenet Pakistan (2011). These home-based women workers are extremely vulnerable to numerous risks, such as, exploitation of middlemen or work providers, unhygienic living and unhealthy working conditions, social exclusion and barred mobility (Hassan, 2014). Table 1, as given below, depicts the different types of social exclusion women face due to gendered ideology of work and patriarchal mindset of the society.

Table 1 Types of Social Exclusion

Depending on the general level of development of a society, the following dimensions are of most relevance:

* exclusion from goods and services (this usually means having no access to certain commodity markets, where the consumer goods typical for a concrete society are provided, but it may also mean exclusion from a basic right to livelihood);

* labor market exclusion, which has material and immaterial aspects;

* exclusion from land, a specific aspect of social exclusion in developing countries;

* exclusion from security, which covers material and physical security;

* exclusion from human rights, which may mean the real access to the legal system as well as political rights (to participate in the exercise of state power, freedom of association, freedom from discrimination) and social rights. …

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