HomeNet SEA sees the need for the development of national policies on homework that “promote equality of treatment between homeworkers and other wage earners” in such areas as the right to organize, protection against discrimination, remuneration, occupational safety and health, social security protection, and training. This is mandated by the ILO Convention on Home Work, adopted in 1996 after a coordinated campaign by home-based workers’ networks, but which up to now has been ratified by only two countries – Ireland and Finland. The adoption of this Convention is significant because it means that ratifying countries will be obligated to convert their provisions into national laws. The Convention would oblige any ratifying member State to “adopt, implement and periodically review a national policy on home work aimed at improving the situation of homeworkers.” The challenge for HomeNet SEA is now on ratification and implementation of the Convention in order to translate the Convention into reality. The advocacy initiatives in the region are focused on developing the national policies in line with the ILO Convention.
In South East Asia, the financial and economic crisis of 1997 has led to growing informalisation since those who have lost employment in the formal sector have moved into informal employment thereby increasing the competition for paid work and scarce resources (i.e. Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia).
As women predominate in the informal sector, the development of appropriate informal sector policies is critical for women’s economic and social empowerment. The development of a strong information base complemented by research studies will serve as the backbone for advocacy and lobbying efforts at all levels for home-based workers to understand their own situation and for the government and the private sector to evolve appropriate policies and programmes. HomeNet SEA is also actively fostering links between relevant research institutions and experts in the region (such as Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing — WIEGO) in the hope of establishing a network of experts or fluid think tank which has as its focus, the researching and monitoring of the impact of global, regional and national economic trends on home-based workers and on women’s economic rights as a complement to the grassroots organizational work. HomeNet SEA Coordinator Rakawin Lee sits on the WIEGO Board and is active in its Organizing and Representation Committee. Representatives of the three national HomeNets attended the WIEGO Annual Meeting in Ahmedabad, India, in January 2002.