Social Protection

Home-based Workers Need Social Protection Urgently

The need for Social Protection for HBWs has been particularly highlighted during the COVID – 19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. In the early days of the pandemic, HBWs experienced job losses on a massive scale as employers in global and domestic supply chains withdrew work orders and wound down operations without paying due compensations. For own account home-based workers customers disappeared and work dried up, leaving them without income.

The catastrophic effects of the loss in income were compounded by the acute lack of social protection. Even as governments announced social protection schemes, relief packages and cash handouts for many in the informal economy, home-based workers found themselves pushed to the side-lines since they did not qualify for many of these relief measures simply because they were not recognized as workers.

What is Social Protection?

Social Protection is a Human Right and a Labour Right enshrined in Human Rights Standards and in International Labour Standards. It is a set of policies and programmes which, if designed well, can prevent and reduce the impact of risks to the security of workers’ incomes throughout the course of their lives.

Social Protection (provided by the state, the private sector or a combination of both) is taking over from the term ‘Social Security’ as it is a broader term that includes social assistance, social insurance and social services.

Issues Faced by Home-Based Workers in Accessing their Right to Social Protection

Social Protection systems usually exclude and / or provide limited protection to home-based workers. Therefore, they often find themselves excluded from these laws, policies and programmes on Social Protection as they are not recognized as a distinct category of workers. These are some of the issues faced by HBWs in accessing their right to social protection:

  1. Not recognized by the Government
    • The government does not recognize HBWs as a specific category of workers and therefore fails to create specific policies and laws that understand and account for the unique nature of Home-Based Work.
    • Inadequate data, information and statistics on issues faced by HBWs affects the way policy makers and government authorities understand the realities of HBWs.
    • Weak and poor implementation and delivery of social protection programmes of the government at the local level, including bureaucratic obstacles.
  2. Invisible in Supply Chains HBWs rarely receive any formal employment contracts, ID cards as workers from the employers, contractors and/ or other intermediaries and receive non of the benefits and protections that factory workers in supply chains are entitled to.
  3. Organizational Difficulties
    • HBWs remain the least organized category of workers because they work from their homes. Even among collectives and platforms of workers in the informal economy or those with formal trade union, HBWs are not always prioritized as a specific category of workers. This makes it difficult for them to demand and access Social Protection programmes at the national and local level.
    • HBWs very often do not have the documents and paperwork required to access government assistance and Social Protection schemes and programmes and without an organization to assist them remain outside such schemes.
    • Many women HBWs do not see their own work as ‘WORK’ due to the broader patriarchal context and conditioning within which their work and labour remains unrecognized.

The Key Demands from HBWs on Social Protection:

The Right to Social Protection Must be UNIVERSAL and INCLUSIVE of All Home-Based Workers.