Home-Based Workers

 

Why Support Organizing?

Home-based workers produce goods – from traditional garments to micro-electronics – sold locally and internationally. They contribute to local and global economies. Their products often beautify cities during festivals and special events. Their income is critical to their household’s survival.

Despite these contributions, home-based workers often work in very poor conditions for low and unpredictable pay. They work in their homes, which are often too small with no storage and have frequent flooding or leaks. Electricity is often scarce, unpredictable, and expensive. Slum clearance schemes destroy their homes, workplaces, and livelihoods.

When home-based workers organize, workers, communities, and cities benefit:

  • Workers can negotiate higher piece rate-rates and fairer working conditions
  • Workers can gain new skills and improved equipment
  • Workers, their families, and their surrounding communities can gain better housing and infrastructure
  • Cities can benefit from increased trade and commerce attracted by ethical and transparent supply chains

 

Organizing Nationally, Regionally, and Locally

Home-based workers are organizing for better pay, working conditions and infrastructure throughout the global South through membership-based organizations:

  • In India, The Self-Employed Women’s Association, SEWA, has been organizing and developing services for poor, self-employed women for over forty years. In Delhi, it started the RUAAB SEWA Artisans Producer Company, Ltd. RUAAB works with home-based workers through the embroidery centre model. The model offers an ethical and transparent supply chain where high-quality products are delivered on time and at a competitive rate. SEWA has also represented workers on tri-partite state welfare boards. Because of this policy advocacy, various sectors of home-based workers are included in the Minimum Wages Act, which has increased their incomes.
  • HomeNet SouthEast Asia was formed by home-based workers from Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand in 1997. Now also supporting workers in Laos and Cambodia, HomeNet SEA advocates for social protection, occupational health and safety, gender-responsive participatory governance, fair trade, and improved legislation for labour rights and standards.
  • HomeNet South Asia has been empowering women in eight countries including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka to lead a life of dignity, free of poverty, through decent work and social protection since the of the Kathmandu Declaration of 2000. HNSA advocates for policies for home-based workers and the inclusion of home-based workers in existing policies and laws. It also promotes home-based workers’ products on local, national, regional, and international markets.
  • HomeNet Thailand works to enhance workers’ capacities in production and management, to strengthen informal workers’ organizations, to promote labour standards and social protections among informal workers, and to influence government policies in legal and social protections for home-based workers. In 2011, after more than a decade of campaigning, HomeNet Thailand saw the passage of the HomeWorkers Protection Act B.E. 2553 and a social protection policy.

 

Organizing Globally

In early February, 2015, home-based workers from across the global South and Eastern Europe gathered in India to build solidarity and strengthen their networks and organizations, to share experiences and learnings, and to adopt a Global Declaration on Home-based Workers and Action Plan.

Since the passage of Home Work Convention (C177) by the International Labour Conference in 1996, home-based worker organizations have been advocating their national governments to ratify it. C177 calls for national policies to promote equality of treatment between homeworkers and other wage earners. It also specifies areas where such equality of treatment should be promoted, including inclusion in labour force statistics. By 2015, 10 countries have ratified C177.

More resources for organizing and supporting home-based workers can be found below.