Regional Conference Adopts an Asian Cities Declaration on Home-Based Workers

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“Home-based workers should not only get civic amenities because they contribute to the economy significantly, but also because it is their human right.”

A two and a half day Regional Conference of City Authorities on Home-Based Workers was organized by HomeNet South Asia in collaboration with HomeNet Thailand from the 7-9 of May, 2014 in Pattaya, Thailand. City Mayors, administrators, networks of home-based workers, and organizations working with home-based workers from eight countries of South and South East Asia – namely, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand – participated in the event.

 The objectives of the conference were the following:

  1.  To highlight how good civic amenities impact on the productivity, livelihoods and quality of life of urban home-based workers. 
  2. To share programmes and experiences regarding the means of addressing issues of home-based workers in South and South East Asia, in partnership with city authorities.
  3. To adopt an “Asian Cities Declaration” and to identify country-specific issues that could be taken up by or in partnerships with City Authorities, to address urban issues of home-based workers.

The Hon’ble Acting Governor of Bangkok, Dr. Pusadee Tamthai, was the chief guest at the inaugural session. In her inaugural address, Dr. Pusadee said, “Home-based workers should not only get civic amenities because they contribute to the economy significantly, but also because it is their human right.” She added further, “there is a great need for coordination among the various departments and agencies that provide different services in Bangkok as the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority alone is not responsible for all the services. She also felt that “it is the duty of the officials to visit the field, to get a better understanding of issues” and emphasized the “need to understand the structure of the city administration, so that the right person or organization could be approached.” In her closing remarks she mentioned, “there is a need for all government officials to have a positive attitude so that they can provide better and more effective services to the people, including home-based workers.”

Dr. Malee Pruekpongsawalee, representative of HomeNet Thailand, welcomed the delegates. Ms. Chandni Joshi, Enforcer of HomeNet South Asia, addressed the gathering. Two local home-based workers, Ms. Neeramol Suthipannaphong and Mr. Somkid Duang-ngeun, shared their views and concerns. Dr. Martha Chen, from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and International Coordinator of WIEGO, gave the key note address.

Statistical Briefs on home-based workers from four countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan  – were launched by the Hon’ble Acting Governor Dr. Pusadee Tamthai and Dr. Martha Chen. It was noted throughout the conference that for any kind of planning or policy and programme formulation, statistics on home-based workers are essential, and these can often be derived from national labour force surveys if the surveys are modified to ask the correct questions.

There were five panel discussions during the conference to discuss the key urban issues affecting home-based workers:

  1. Basic Infrastructure Services, Part 1 – Water and Sanitation
  2. Basic Infrastructure Services, Part 2 – Public Transport and Electricity
  3. Secure and Adequate Housing
  4. Livelihood Support through Local Bodies, and
  5. Health (health insurance, maternity benefits/care) and Occupational Health and Safety

 On the concluding day of the conference, an “Asian Cities Declaration on Home-Based Workers” was adopted based on the recommendations of the conference. This will serve as a road map for Governments and City Authorities to address issues of urban home-based workers in South and South East Asia and include them in their planning and implementation processes.