Media Update: United Nations Pakistan, 14 January 2021

This Media Update includes: 

  • ILO - NEWS RELEASE : Homeworkers need to be better protected, says the ILO



Homeworkers need to be better protected, says the ILO

The dramatic increase in working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic ‎has highlighted the poor working conditions experienced by many ‎homeworkers who, prior to the crisis, numbered an estimated 260 million ‎people worldwide.‎

GENEVA (ILO News) – Those working from home, whose number has ‎greatly increased due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, need better ‎protection, says the International Labour Organization (ILO) in a new report.

Since homeworking occurs in the private sphere it is often “invisible”. In low- ‎and middle-income countries for instance, almost all home-based workers (90 ‎per cent) work informally.

They are usually worse off than those who work outside the home, even in ‎higher-skilled professions. Homeworkers earn on average 13 per cent less in ‎the United Kingdom; 22 per cent less in the United States of America; 25 per ‎cent less in South Africa and about 50 per cent in Argentina, India and ‎Mexico. ‎

Homeworkers also face greater safety and health risks and have less access ‎to training than non-home-based workers, which can affect their career ‎prospects.

The report, Working from home. From invisibility to decent work , also shows ‎that homeworkers do not have the same level of social protection as other ‎workers. They are also less likely to be part of a trade union or to be covered ‎by a collective bargaining agreement.‎

Renewed urgency

According to ILO estimates, prior to the COVID-19 crisis , there were ‎approximately 260 million home-based workers worldwide, representing 7.9 ‎per cent of global employment; 56 per cent of them (147 million) were ‎women.

They include teleworkers who work remotely on a continual basis, and a vast ‎number of workers who are involved in the production of goods that cannot ‎be automated, such as embroidery, handicrafts, 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 COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 an estimated one-in-‎five workers found themselves working from home. Data for the whole of ‎‎2020, once it is available, is expected to show a substantial increase on the ‎previous year.

The growth of homeworking is likely to continue in the coming years, the ‎report says, bringing renewed urgency to the need to address the issues ‎facing homeworkers and their employers.‎

Poorly regulated with lack of compliance

Homeworking is often poorly regulated and compliance with existing laws ‎remains a challenge. In many instances, homeworkers are classified as ‎independent contractors and therefore excluded from the scope of labour ‎legislation.‎

‎ “Many countries around the world have legislation, sometimes ‎complemented by collective agreements, that addresses various decent work ‎deficits associated with homework. 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,” said Janine Berg, ILO senior economist ‎and one of the report’s authors.‎


The report includes concrete recommendations to make homeworking more ‎visible and thus better protected.

For industrial homeworkers, the report underlines the importance of ‎facilitating their transition to the formal economy by extending legal ‎protections, improving compliance, generalizing written contracts, providing ‎access to social security and making homeworkers aware of their rights.

For home-based, digital platform workers, whose activities raise particular ‎challenges for compliance as they cross multiple borders, the report ‎advocates the use of data generated by their work to monitor working ‎conditions and tools to set fair wages.

For teleworkers, the report calls on policymakers to put in place specific ‎actions to mitigate psychosocial risks and introduce a “right to disconnect”, to ‎ensure respect for the boundaries between working life and private life.

Homeworking is likely to take on greater importance in the years to come, the ‎report says. Governments, in cooperation with workers’ and employers’ ‎organizations, should work together to ensure that all homeworkers – ‎whether they are weaving rattan in Indonesia, making shea butter in Ghana, ‎tagging photos in Egypt, sewing masks in Uruguay, or teleworking in France ‎‎– move from invisibility to decent work.


UN entities involved in this initiative
International Labor Organization