On 23rd April 2024, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) held a convention that brought together home-based worker leaders from across the country, along with representatives from global organisations like ITUC AP, ILO, IndustriALL and HomeNet International, to address the pressing issues faced by these often-invisible workers. This was one of the activities of their Campaign for ILO Convention 177.

Messages of solidarity from global organisations were given, amongst them were the words of Maria Elena André, Director of the Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV-ILO), who commended SEWA for highlighting the importance of addressing home-based workers’ challenges. She encouraged SEWA to continue to advocate for ILO C177, which has only been ratified by 13 countries and emphasised the need for collective action to give a voice to home-based workers, increase union membership, and promote policy reforms.

The event culminated in a memorandum submitted by SEWA to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) outlining a set of demands aimed at improving the lives and working conditions of home-based workers.

The memorandum highlights the significant challenges faced by home-based workers, including long hours, precarious working conditions, and lack of formal recognition and social security. Despite their contributions to family incomes and GDP, these workers remain invisible and unrecognised. The ILO estimates that there are 260 million home-based workers globally, with 30 million in India, although this number may be higher due to the informal nature of their work.

The memorandum demands concrete action from the ILO and the Government of India:
  1. ILO should take forward the drive to ratify the C177 in at least 3 south Asían countries -India, Nepal, Pakistan.
  2. Through tripartite meetings, ILO should develop a comprehensive National Policy for the Home-based workers as a first step in our country while the C177 is being ratified.
  3. ILO should conduct an action research study of Home-based work in five States on the impact of climate change on their trades.
  4. We urge the ILO to develop a local Research & Development (R&D) centre for innovation to resolve issues like workspace design, occupational related health issues, lack of skills development and limited knowledge on latest market trends for home-based workers. We urge the State Governments to formulate policy for Home based workers.
  5. Government should identify the trades of home-based workers and declare the mínimum wages on piece rates they are getting the wages on piece rate.
  6. Under the E-Shram, the Government should initiate giving social security to home-based workers. lt should cover basic social security schemes for-Old age pension; life and disability insurance; child care; maternity benefit; healthcare benefit; education for children and even housing subsidy, as home is their workspace. ILO should support this intervention with the Government. Later trade specific social security schemes should also be developed by the Government.
  7. While identifying the significant repercussions of climate change on home­ based workers, it is important to devise mechanisms to reduce its adverse effect on these workers as well increase their resilience.
  8. Government should link all HBWs with the ESI and it should start with 74 lakhs beedi workers because after repeal of the Beedi and Cigar Workers Welfare CESS Act, 1976, beedi workers are bereft from any social security schemes.
  9. Government should include all home-based workers in relevant policies and guidelines in all the labour codes and regulations and ILO should engage itself in interventions at all levels for attaining the same.
  10. The Government of India declared the National Policy on Occupational Safety, Health and Environment at Workplace on 9th February 2009. The Policy also aims at providing a statutory framework on Occupational Safety and Health in respect of all sectors. lt is required that Home-based workers should also be included in this Policy. A study to understand the effects of their work on their health should be conducted and based on the report of the study, further preventive and curative steps/ measures must be taken. In addition, the Government should conduct a study on occupational health in 5 trades of home-based workers.
  11. To ensure the inclusion of the home-based workers in all the present L levant schemes of the government.
  12. A National minimum wage as the work keeps shifting either inter-State or intra­ State depending on the least mínimum wage in the given city or State.
  13. We urge the ITUC-AP to take forward the Resolution No 2 passed in the 5th ITUC -Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Bangkok, Thailand on 20-22 November 2023.

Read SEWA’s Memorandum HERE