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The ILO Convention 177 (C177)- Home Work Convention: what is it, why is it important for home-based workers

ILO Convention 177, also known as the Home Work Convention, is an international labour standard adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO). It aims to protect the rights of homeworkers and improve their working conditions.

The significance of Convention 177 (C177) lies in its recognition of home work as a form of work and its commitment to ensuring fair treatment and social protection for homeworkers.

C177 addresses several specific articles related to home work, working conditions, and social protection. Here are some key provisions of C177:

By following these provisions, countries can ensure that their legislation, policies, and practices align with the principles of C177, providing better protection and support for homeworkers.

How was the ILO Convention 177 achieved?

The adoption of the Home Work Convention at the 1996 International Labour Conference (ILC) was a significant achievement following a determined campaign led by the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India.

SEWA, established in 1972 in Ahmedabad, India, became a pioneering union for informal workers, including many home-based workers, and recognized the need to combine the women’s movement with the labour movement to safeguard the rights of informal women workers. As part of their efforts, SEWA collaborated with home-based worker organizations in countries such as Australia, Brazil, England, Italy, Spain, and others, leading to the formation of HomeNet International in 1993. This network aimed to advocate for an ILO convention specifically addressing home-based workers’ rights and gained support from women trade unionists.

Despite initial opposition from the employers’ group and some governments, the workers’ group within the ILO persistently lobbied to include an international standard for homeworkers on the agenda. Through workshops, meetings, and engagement with policymakers in Delhi, and Bangkok, their advocacy efforts gained momentum. Guidelines were circulated to guide the workers’ group in negotiations.

In 1996, a coalition was formed comprising organizations like the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV), SEWA, and a growing network of home-based workers’ organizations and supporting NGOs. With the backing of the Secretary to the ILO Workers’ Group, this coalition played a vital role.

Ultimately, their persistent lobbying and collaboration led to the adoption of the Home Work Convention at the ILC in 1996. This Convention marked a crucial step in recognizing and safeguarding the rights of home-based workers worldwide.

Why should a member state of the ILO (country) ratify Convention 177 (C177)? What is in it for Governments, homeworkers, and employers?

The Second Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Minister for Work and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz, after consigning the instruments of ratification by Spain of Convention 177 on domestic work, at the headquarters of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva. © ILO

With home-based work on the rise, it is surprising to observe that as of 2023 only 13 countries have ratified C177. According to the ILO, prior to the COVID-19 crisis, there were approximately 260 million home-based workers worldwide, representing 7.9 per cent of global employment; 56 per cent of them (147 million) were women. When the 2020 numbers are finally tallied by the ILO, it is expected that the number of home-based workers around the world will far surpass the latest figures from 2019.

There are compelling reasons why the ratification of ILO Convention 177 by more countries is crucial:

  1. Global Norms and Decent Work: C177 is a global norm-setting law that aligns countries with global standards of decent work and core labour standards.
  2. Equality and Treatment: C177 provides a blueprint for equality of treatment between homeworkers and other workers, supporting countries that advocate for equality.
  3. Addressing Marginalization: Homeworkers, who are among the most marginalized and exploited workers, are at the bottom of value chains. Ratifying C177 enables governments to address their concerns and protect their welfare.
  4. Regulation and Protection: As home work is a significant part of the growing informal economy, ratification of C177 ensures its regulation and provides basic remuneration and social security for homeworkers.
  5. Poverty Reduction: Ratifying C177 and improving the living and working conditions of homeworkers, particularly in poor communities, strengthens the fight against poverty, especially in regions like South Asia and South East Asia.
  6. Solidarity and Support: Ratifying C177 demonstrates solidarity with an important group of informal economy workers, particularly marginalized women workers. It shows support for informal economy workers and their rights.
  7. Sustainable Development Goals and Commitment: Ratifying C177 allows member states to demonstrate solidarity with the United Nations and other agencies in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It serves as a global declaration of the country's commitment to justice and gender equality.
For homeworkers and their organizations, ratification of C177 is important because:
  1. Recognition and Contribution: Ratification recognizes homeworkers as workers and acknowledges their contribution to national economies.
  2. National Policy and Improved Lives: Ratification lays the foundation for a comprehensive National Policy on Homeworkers, leading to improved lives and livelihoods for homeworkers.
  3. Labour Standards and Social Protection: Ratification ensures minimum labour standards, occupational safety and health, and social protection for homeworkers. It promotes equality of treatment between homeworkers and other workers.
  4. Voice and Advocacy: Ratification helps homeworkers understand their employers, their position in the production value chain, and enables them to voice their concerns and demands.
  5. Training, Skill Upgradation, and Advocacy: The National Policy resulting from ratification provides training, skill upgrading, and a tool for advocacy and negotiations for homeworkers.
  6. Gender Equality: Ratification reduces gender inequalities as most homeworkers are women. By recognizing their rights, they gain respect and appreciation in their families and communities.
  7. Global Ethics and Supply Chains: Ratification improves global ethics by addressing homeworkers' concerns and ensures that developed nations do not exploit cheap labour from the developing world in global supply chains.
Employers also benefit from ratification by:
  1. Ethical and Fair Labour Practices: Employers can demonstrate their support for ethical and fair labour arrangements by aligning with the principles of C177.
  2. Solidarity and Commitment: Ratification allows employers to show solidarity with the United Nations and other global players in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing their commitment to justice and gender equality.
  3. Productivity: Implementation of the National Policy on Homeworkers resulting from ratification leads to better-skilled and protected homeworkers in the value chain, ultimately increasing productivity.
  4. Reduced Competition: C177 mandates the implementation of minimum labour standards and protection for homeworkers globally, reducing competition based on exploitation.
  5. Equality and Gender Sensitivity: Employers can demonstrate their commitment to justice by treating regular workers and homeworkers equally and showcasing gender sensitivity, considering the predominantly women homeworker population.
  6. Conducive Business Environment: Proper implementation of C177 reduces poverty, creating a safer, healthier, and more conducive environment for business.

By addressing the concerns of homeworkers through ratification and implementation of C177, the conditions of other home-based workers, including self-employed or own-account workers, will also be highlighted and protection extended to them.

Current list of countries who have ratified the C177:

Albania24-jul-02In Force
Antigua and Barbuda28-jul-21In Force
Argentina31-jul-06In Force
Belgium2-oct-12In Force
Bosnia and Herzegovina18 Jan 2010In Force
Bulgaria17-jul-09In Force
Finland17-jun-98In Force
Ireland22 Apr 1999In Force
Netherlands31-oct-02In Force
North Macedonia3-oct-12In Force
Slovenia14 Apr 2021In Force
Spain25-may-22In Force
Tajikistan29-may-12In Force

HNI's work on C177

Thematic discussions on climate change, access to markets and social protection during the HNI Congress 2023
Delegation with home-based worker leaders and representatives from other global informal economy networks during the ILC 2023 in Geneva.

Homenet International is an organization that advocates for the rights and welfare of home-based workers globally. HNI has been actively involved in promoting the ratification and implementation of Convention 177, and focuses on empowering home-based workers through awareness and advocacy campaigns, capacity-building trainings for its affiliates, and other activities.

What is the International Labour Organization (ILO)?

The headquarters building of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Geneva / Switzerland – October 16, 2019
Photo credit : Steiner SA

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that focuses on promoting social justice and decent work worldwide. Founded in 1919 and headquartered in Geneva, the ILO is the only worldwide tripartite organisation in which workers’ and employers’ organisations are represented on equal terms with governments to develop and oversee international labour standards.

ILO’s primary task is to set labour standards and to promote ‘decent work’ so as to improve the livelihoods of working people everywhere. This is done primarily through the International Labour Conference (ILC), which is held once a year in Geneva.

What is an ILO Convention or Recommendation?

ILO’s conventions and recommendations are international labour standards established by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to promote decent work, protect workers’ rights, and improve labour conditions worldwide.

ILO conventions are legally binding international treaties that member countries are encouraged to ratify and implement as their national laws. When a country ratifies a convention, it commits to adopting and applying the standards and principles outlined in that convention. Think of ILO’s conventions as rules that countries are encouraged to follow and implement in their own laws to protect workers and improve work conditions. These conventions cover many different topics related to labour, such as minimum wages, occupational safety, and freedom of association. They are a set of standards that countries agree to meet.

ILO recommendations, on the other hand, are non-binding guidelines and policy suggestions that accompany conventions. They are helpful suggestions that come along with the conventions, providing extra guidance and examples on how to put the conventions into action. While not mandatory, these recommendations are essential for countries to understand how to effectively follow the conventions and serve as valuable references for governments, employers, and workers’ organizations when formulating labour policies and practices.

Glossary of terms:

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Laura Revelo

HNI Communications Officer