Despite its political and financial stability, India lags behind all other South Asian countries in making laws to protect the rights of home-based workers, said Sapna Joshi.
Joshi, who is the executive director of Home Net, an organisation working for the legal and social protection of home-based, women workers, is visiting Karachi, along with her colleagues from India and Nepal, for the first National Convention of Home-Based Women Workers.
“Pakistan and Nepal appear to be most active,” she said, while talking to journalists on Tuesday evening. “We have found out that our counterparts in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have managed to seek the support of their respective governments and develop a sort of policy outline for these workers.”
India has over 30 million home-based workers and 65 per cent of them are women. Yet, they are not recognised as workers under a range of excuses, such as difficulties in defining them, compiling data and plain disinterest of the ministries, she said. These female workers have, however, formed cooperatives and unions to press for their rights, she added.
According to Joshi, the ratification of the ILO Convention C-177 is not acceptable to the Indian government as it requires the submission of a report on the status and condition of home-based workers every two years. The convention was introduced in 1996 in the backdrop of massive globalisation that focussed on firing factory workers and has been signed by 183 countries, including a few from Southeast Asia.
Referring to Bangladesh, Joshi pointed out that they have drafted a policy on home-based women workers but it is entangled between the ministries since the government changed. It is unfortunate that many governments, even some home-based workers, fail to count themselves as workers, she said.
Sri Lanka, with the highest GDP and living standards in the region, caters to its piece-rate workers under the Factory Act but with little understanding of its ‘Own Account Workers'. There were hardly any trade unions in the country but its government knew better. It collaborated with NGOs, including Home Net Sri Lanka, and prepared a draft policy on home-based women workers. The policy is presently waiting for approval from the cabinet, Joshi said.
According to Home Net Nepal's Om Thapilya, there are 2.2 million home-based women workers in Nepal and a majority of them are deprived of their rights and activists. They plan to start a signature campaign for the ratification of the ILO C-177 convention by the Government of Nepal, he added.