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A milestone for homeworkers: Unpacking Pakistan’s progressive Home-based Workers Act

Nest’s Standards and Seal for Homes and Small Workshops, launched at the United Nations in December 2017, represented a large step forward in improving visibility to homeworkers by adopting traditional factory audits to the nuances of home-based production. In partnership with major industry players like West Elm, Target, The Children’s Place, PVH, Patagonia, Eileen Fisher and Etsy, Nest is using the Standards to advocate for homeworker rights while opening up new doors for brands to source handcraft responsibly.

Adopting the wisdom of long-time Nest supporter, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Nest takes a multi-stakeholder approach to its work, understanding that system change is fueled by aligned strategies across sectors. It follows that when government makes decisions supportive of Nest’s work, we see this as an indicator of the vast potential for global progress when it comes to unlocking economic opportunity in the handwork sector.

On May 6th, Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly passed the Home-Based Workers Act of 2018, legally recognizing an estimated 5 million homeworkers across the nation as formal workers entitled to benefits such as collective bargaining, minimum wage, maternity leave, benefits and pensions. What’s more, the new act was passed unanimously.

The milestone was hard won by homeworkers themselves, pointing to the enormous agency that handworkers can exercise when they recognize their collective power. For a long time, artisan businesses have largely operated in silos. To policy makers, they have been viewed as small, niche populations, as opposed to the massive global workforce they embody. But on May 9th, we saw handworkers step into their own power.

Nest looks forward to watching the new Act unfold. In the next five years, we hope and expect that, supported by our own non-profit efforts, other governments will follow suit. If we want to bring the world’s 300 million homeworkers into the global economy with visibility and agency, these are the types of actions we need to see.