Homeworkers need better protection: UN


The number of those working from home has dramatically increased due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and they need better protection, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said in a report Wednesday.

Since home working occurs in the private sphere, it is often "invisible," with the ILO estimating some 260 million people were home workers before the virus outbreak.

Though working from home is not a novelty, the institutions that govern the labor market are rarely designed with the home as a workplace, said the report.

The sudden rise in home working renews urgency for the need to appreciate home work for both workers and employers.

For instance, in low- and middle-income countries, almost all home-based workers (90%) work informally.

They are usually worse off than those who work outside the home, even in higher-skilled professions.

Earning less

Homeworkers earn on average 13% less in the United Kingdom, 22% less in the United States, 25% less in South Africa, and about 50% in Argentina, India, and Mexico.

"Many countries around the world have legislation, sometimes complemented by collective agreements, that addresses various decent work deficits associated with homework," said Janine Berg, an ILO senior economist and an author of the report.

"Nonetheless, only 10 ILO Member States have ratified Convention No. 177, that promotes equality of treatment between homeworkers and other wage earners, and few have a comprehensive policy on homework."

Home workers also face greater safety and health risks and have less access to training than non-home-based workers, affecting their career prospects.

The report, Working From Home; From Invisibility to Decent Work, also shows that homeworkers do not have the same social protection level as other workers.

They are also less likely to be in a trade union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, ILO estimates show that the approximately 260 million home-based workers worldwide, represented 7.9% of global employment; and 56% of them (147 million) were women.

They include teleworkers who work remotely continually. Many workers are producing goods that cannot be automated, such as embroidery, handicrafts, and electronic assembly.

A third category, digital platform workers, provide services, such as processing insurance claims, copy-editing, or data annotation for the training of artificial intelligence systems.

In the first months of the pandemic, an estimated one-in-five workers found themselves working from home.

Substantial increase

Data for the whole of 2020, once available, is expected to show a substantial increase over the previous year.

The growth of home working is likely to continue, the report says, bringing renewed urgency to the need to address the issues facing homeworkers and their employers.

Homeworking is often poorly regulated, and in many instances, home workers are classified as independent contractors and therefore excluded from the scope of labor legislation.

Industrial home work is most associated with clothing production and the apparel industry which in 2019 was valued at over $1 trillion, with world exports amounting to $0.5 trillion.

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