Living in the background: home-based women workers and poverty persistence

Living in the background: home-based women workers and poverty persistence

Organising home-based workers in South and South East Asia

This paper examines the relationship between home-based work and persistent poverty in certain parts of South and South East Asia. The author argues that an expanded conception of social protection is needed if poverty prevention initiatives are to be effective in the case of home-based women workers. Given the diversity of conditions and needs of different groups of home-based workers, the approach to social protection needs to be multilayered, including:

  • community-based initiatives that allow a response to particular local needs, allow a personal rather than impersonal response, and help identify the ‘hierarchy of access’ to social protection in any particular setting
  • initiatives coming out of informal workers’ networks/organisations as a voice of both organised and unorganised home-based workers
  • other local and state/provincial initiatives that allow for programmes specifically tailored to the circumstances and requirements of informal workers in a particular geographical area
  • national-level initiatives that are more impersonal, but have the financial and organisational strength to address the most challenging needs faced by home-based workers and their families
  • an international context that supports and coordinates social protection initiatives across the region, helping to prevent very uneven patterns of enforcement that fuel rapid movements of capital to areas without protection, and create even more instabilities in the region.

The paper also stresses the importantance of home-based women workers becoming organised. Home-based and other informal workers’ organisations provide information to, and a voice for, their members. Women who have no access to resources or information are unlikely to be able to negotiate in order to protect themselves and earn sustainable livelihoods for their families, and they are unlikely to be able to achieve any sense of security. Organising into groups, allows the women to become visible, and become a force that can help counter the sources of vulnerability in their lives.

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