• The Home Based Workers Act 2018 has been approved by the legislative assembly of Sindh, Pakistan.
  • All home-based workers will now have the right to form their own CBAs (collective bargaining agent), pensions, minimum wages and other social security benefits.
Pakistan home-based workers in Sindh will now be protected by law

Pakistan home-based workers in Sindh will now be protected by law

Pakistan clothing industry unions and associations have welcomed the approval of the Home Based Workers Act 2018 by the legislative assembly of Sindh – the second largest province of Pakistan – calling it an initiative of historic importance.

According to Zehra Khan, general secretary, Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), the law will have a very wide-ranging impact not only on the socio-economic conditions of the home-based workers, but also on Pakistan's economy.

"With approval of this long-awaited act, all home-based workers have been legally recognised by the Labour Ministry besides having the right to form their own CBAs (collective bargaining agent), pensions, minimum wages and other social security benefits," Khan told just-style. 

According to her, nearly 12m home-based workers across the country have, until now, not received the protections due to them under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 177 on home-based work passed in 1996. But after the new provincial act comes into force, the 5m home-based workers of Sindh province - of which 80% are women making textiles, garments, embroidery, bangles and other accessories – should start reaping the benefits.

Khan predicts other provinces will follow suit: "The movement we have started here will not remain restricted to Sindh but will soon spread all across the country."

Muhammad Ijaz Khokhar, a former chairman of the Pakistan Readymade Garments Exporters & Manufacturers Association (PRGMEA), also welcomed the move: "Frankly speaking, I am very happy and strongly supportive to this historical development…at least the government has recognised poor home-based workers' contribution to the economy."

He said the reform would boost the sustainability of key apparel and textile supplies to the Pakistan domestic market, adding that the economy in general would benefit as home-based workers' incomes will increase. It would not immediately effect exports, however, as under Pakistan law, unincorporated individuals cannot export products.

Expressing more or less identical views on the issue, Kanwar Usman, spokesperson for the textile division of the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Textile, added: "The contribution of home-based workers to the informal economy is irrefutable."

Khan said a standing committee comprising the Sindh Government and HBWWF representatives has been established to collect home-based workers' data regarding their current wages and working hours. However, she says implementation of the law might be delayed past the scheduled July general elections, which includes provinces such as Sindh, which is controlled by the opposition Pakistan People's Party.