Homebased work ranges from traditional crafts such as weaving or embroidery; processing natural products like making rope or shelling cashew nuts to industrial work, such as making leather shoes, garments or trimming rubber and plastic parts. It is usually labour-intensive and often done by hand, although some women use sewing machines, soldering irons or presses.
Homebased workers are usually badly paid - well below minimum wage or average earnings. They have to work to live and when they are sick or old, they have no income. Most work to pay basic living costs for their family.
Typically employed informally by subcontractors or intermediaries, and drawn from the poorest communities, women homeworkers are the worst paid and most insecure workers in most company’s supply chains. Their very low rates of pay create a risk of child labour; their employment is irregular, precarious and sometimes hazardous, but they have no access to social protection or benefits. Despite this, for many women, particularly those with young children, homeworking offers a vital source of family income. The presence of homeworkers is often hidden by suppliers, and may not be disclosed by audits.
Hidden Homeworkers is a new project to extend monitoring to reach hidden workers beyond first tier suppliers, and work together to help homeworkers access their rights and improve their working conditions. Hidden Homeworkers is a partnership between Traidcraft Exchange, HomeNet South Asia, and Homeworkers Worldwide, a specialist UK based NGO supporting homeworkers and other women in precarious employment, with financial support from the European Union.
On the 17th of September Peter Williams from Homeworkers Worldwide is coming to Oslo to give Ethical Trade Norway members an in-depth understanding of the issue of homeworkers in key sectors such as textile and leather in the sourcing markets of India, Pakistan and Nepal. He will speak about the opportunities for members to get involved with the Hidden Homeworkers project.
14:00 – 14:10: Welcome and introductions
14:10 – 15:10: What does it look like for home workers in leather and textile in India, Pakistan and Nepal today (key risks and challenges)
15:10 – 15:30: Examples of good practice of brands working with civil society to address the issue.
15:30 - 16:00: Presentation of the project, Hidden Homeworkers, a four year partnership between Traidcraft Exchange, HomeNet South Asia, and Homeworkers Worldwide, with financial support from the European Union.
Peter Williams - Labour rights consultant and activist, Oxford, UK
Peter is a consultant/activist working on labour rights and livelihoods with wide experience in international development. This experience includes 14 years in Oxfam, managing field programmes in Brazil and Oxfam’s Fair Trade Programme and finally as Global Livelihoods Adviser, focusing on the rights of informal workers (homeworkers, smallholder farmers and their employees) in global supply chains.
Peter is active in the Ethical Trading Initiative, representing HWW in the ETI Homeworker Project and in our engagement with ETI member companies. He is employed part-time as Co-ordinator of the ETI NGO Caucus and also by Oxfam International, supporting their strategy to improve the impact of Fairtrade on labour rights.