LAHORE: Punjab government’s autonomous body Punjab Employees Social Security Institution (PESSI) with the assistance of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Pakistan and Domestic Workers Union Pakistan has launched a campaign of registering female domestic workers in Punjab to provide them social security benefits.
In a pilot project, four areas of Lahore including Beghumpura, Sui Gas Housing Society, Valencia Society, Youhanabad, and Bahria have been focused on where activists and authorities have set up registration camps for female domestic workers. These registration camps helped the domestic or service providers to register themselves with PESSI so they could get Social Security Cards (SSC) as per the Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019.
The campaign started on June 16 and concluded on June 20. Aroma Shahzad, Member BOD Punjab Social Security Health Management Company, explaining the campaign said that the campaign response was encouraging as a good number of female domestic workers visited the registration camps to inquire about the social security benefits.
“These vulnerable domestic workers if provided with social security benefits then they would be treated like other labourers in the labour sector. The Beghumpura vicinity also drew much attention from the local domestic workers. The sense of security is associated with the Social Security Cards (SSC) and that is where the government can play its part by providing these cards to deserving service providers at the earliest.”
Aroma has been actively campaigning from the platform DWUP and raised the case of female domestic workers at the policy level.
Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF) established the Domestic Workers’ Trade Union under the ILO project, Promoting Gender Equality for Decent Employment (GE4DE), funded by the Canadian government. The project, which aims to improve women’s skills and employment by working with the government, employers, workers and media, identified domestic work as a sector where many women were employed in the most vulnerable, unprotected conditions, completely outside the purview of labour laws. Millions of workers including women, girls and boys are engaged in domestic work in Pakistan and are contributing to the informal economy significantly.
PESSI Director (C&B) Babar Abbas Khan told Tribune Wired that the project to register domestic workers was launched last year but halted due to COVID-19. “Now, we have re-launched this campaign providing the easiest way for domestic workers to register themselves on the online portal or android Application of ESSI. We believe this will yield encouraging results where the awareness campaign with the assistance of relevant stakeholders and activists will lead towards large-scale awareness campaigns.”
Babar Abbas further explained the awareness campaign and said, “We will formulate policies keeping in view of the results of this week-long campaign.”
On June 16, Punjab Minister for Labour Ansar Majeed Khan carried out the 151st Governing Body meeting and approved multiple pro-labour initiatives and directed to complete ongoing projects at the earliest. The meeting was attended by provincial Secretary Labour Ahmed Javed Qazi, Commissioner Punjab Social Security Institution Anbreen Sajid, Vice Commissioner Punjab Social Security Chaudhry Muhammad Arshad and representatives of finance, industries, health department and governing body members.
The meeting approved an increase in the number of beds in Social Security Hospitals from 1725 to 1825 in 11 social security hospitals in the province and also approved the appointment of at least one male and one female doctor in social security dispensaries.
According to ILO, since the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), domestic workers have gained legal protection in many countries. For too many domestic workers, however, decent work has not yet become a reality. At least 75.6 million people around the world perform this essential work in or for private households. A staggering eight out of every ten domestic workers are informally employed and thus lack effective labour and social protections.
In 2015, PWF formed the Domestic Workers’ Trade Union, the very first union of its kind in Pakistan registered with the Office of the Registrar of Trade Unions, Lahore under the provisions of the Punjab Industrial Relations, 2010.
Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF) Saad Muhammad Chaudhry told ‘Tribune Wired’ that the female domestic workers in Punjab have been sensitized with a weeklong awareness campaign.
“In Lahore, we set up four registration camps were a good number of female domestic workers came to register themselves. There are challenges at the policy level like contribution per worker and medical treatment benefits that need to be resolved. But the start of an awareness campaign and debate on the rights of domestic workers is a good omen which needs to be continued. Domestic Workers Union Pakistan has been collaborating with the Punjab authorities to spread the social security benefits for the domestic workers.”
It is relevant to mention that the Punjab Domestic Workers Act maintained: “A female domestic worker engaged in domestic work shall be entitled to maternity benefits with a minimum amount equivalent to six weeks wages in the prescribed manner but not less than the minimum wages notified by the government.”
Saad explained that these domestic workers when provided with social security cards, could gain the facilities as per the Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019. It is in the law that every domestic worker shall be paid such wages within such period of time as may be provided in the letter of employment, but such wages must in no case be less than the wages specified by the government under the Act.”