My name is Suntaree H. Saeng-ging, from Thailand. I am the regional coordinator of HomeNet South East Asia and a Working Committee Member of HomeNet International. HomeNet International is a newly launched network of 36 home-based worker organizations worldwide, representing more than 600,000 home-based workers, mainly women. HomeNet Southeast Asia and HomeNet International are part of the WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) network of informal workers. We work to empower the working poor in the informal economy- especially women- and to help secure their livelihoods.
Home-based workers together with street vendors, waste pickers, domestic workers, sub-contracted workers and all workers in the informal economy make up more than half of the global workforce. A 2018 ILO report shows that more than 61% of the world’s workers, or 2 billion workers, earn their living in the informal economy.
A recent ILO study finding shows that there are over 260 million home-based workers around the world and this number is only increasing. Many studies have also evidenced the huge contribution of home-based workers to the global economy. They have found that in many developing countries, home-based workers account for over 50% of employment and produce nearly 30% of GDP. But we home-based workers are still the world’s hidden workforce. We are at the very bottom of global and national supply chains. We work long hours without workers’ rights and protections such as a minimum wage, social protection and occupational health and safety.
The situation of home-based workers has gotten worse during the pandemic. Not only were we subjected to severe health risks, but we also lost orders and couldn’t sell our products. We lost our work and income but had no unemployment insurance to provide relief– something that all workers should have access to.
We appreciate ILO standards that protect the rights and extend social protection to workers in the informal economy, including Convention No. 177 and Recommendation No. 184 on Home Work, adopted in 1996, and Recommendation No. 204 on the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy, adopted in 2015. We also appreciate the Decent Work principles and the recommendations on the Future of Work. Unfortunately, the reality on the ground is still far from these standards, recommendations and principles.
This year at the ILC, we welcome the discussion on social protection, and the emphasis on “Universal Social Protection” to ensure that all workers can access and enjoy such rights.
We, home-based workers, would like to ask the ILO to work closely with the governments of your member states and encourage them to ratify all relevant conventions, and to implement national laws to protect the rights of home-based workers and all workers in informal economy. It is very important to include our representatives in all social dialogues, tripartite discussions and other decision-making structures, so that “Decent Work for All” and “Universal Social Protection” really happens.