Home Indonesian Scholars Forum Gender Sexuality and Human Rights Situational Analysis on Indonesian Homeworkers: Executive Summary

Situational Analysis on Indonesian Homeworkers: Executive Summary

Artikel ini merupakan ringkasan eksekutif berbahasa Inggris dari riset berjudul sama yang dilaksanakan pada Maret-Juli 2017. Riset ini beranggotakan Dianty Widyowati Ningrum (University of Manchester), Made Yaya Sawitri (University of Sussex), Priliantina Bebasari (University of Sussex Alumni), dan Yulia Dwi Andriyanti (University of Leeds).

In the beginning of the twenty-first century, the influence of globalization has resulted in informalisation of economic sector which is characterized by deregulation, outsourcing, and the fragmentation of international supply chains. Homeworkers as one of flexible, dispensable, and cheap labor force has become very attractive among business owners. Moreover, the invisibility of homeworkers makes it hard for them to demand higher wages, job security, or improvements in working conditions (Pearson, 2004).

ILO Convention no. 177 (1996) identified a person is called a homeworker if he/she works almost entirely at domestic space, not at the premises provided by the employer. Remuneration is paid by the employer in return of products or services as specified by the employer, irrespective of who provides the equipment, materials or other means. There are generally two kinds of homeworkers. The first one is self-employed home workers who buy their own raw materials, supplies, and equipment, and pay utility and transport costs. They sell their own finished goods, mainly to local customers and markets but sometimes to international markets. The second type is subcontracted home-based workers. They can be found working for various industries with different job specification. Some sub-contracted homeworkers engaged in the production for international market, such as making trainer laces, assembling gold chains, or sewing in labels for export products. Others engaged in the production of domestic goods, such as incense, cigarette and souvenirs for domestic market. Employers determine the by piece-rate of the product and their wages are given when the products are complete and delivered (Pearson, 2004).

While both type of homeworkers share many common characteristics including low incomes and poor working and living conditions, this paper will focus on sub-contracted homeworkers as their lack of control over resources and condition of employment make them more vulnerable. Majority of the work for sub-contracted homeworker is only determined based on verbal agreement. This made them very vulnerable to delay or non-payment of wages, firing without notice or compensation, poor occupational health and safety conditions and an absence of social benefits such as pensions, sick pay and health insurance (Prugl, 1999). They have to work in long hours with more than 30 per cent of women homeworkers working for more than 48 hours or more per week. Despite such condition, sub-contracted homeworkers usually earn 50 per cent less than the average wage (ILO/MAMPU Project, 2015).

In Indonesia, most of the homeworkers are found to be women. A research by Joan Hardjono in 1990 which titled “Developments in the Majalaya Textile Industries” mentioned that homeworkers have existed since 1928 in the textile industry, however their existence is largely ignored by government agencies and policy makers (Oey-Gardiner, et al., 2007). It is undeniable that home work is an important source of main or additional income for many household, but its domestic location presents a dual and contradictory character. On the one hand, its domestic location allows women to reconcile unpaid work, such as childcare and household chores. On the other, the practice presents poor working conditions and it tends to reinforce the invisibility of women’s work. Another problem also includes the presence of production equipment which may posit harm for the family members.

Organizing homeworkers has been proven to be not a simple task because of lack a direct employment contract and they do not work at the premises of those who are responsible for hiring their labour (Prugl, 1999). Employment of the homeworkers usually involve a long employment chain which involve multiple numbers of intermediaries who each will get a percentage of payment from allocating work and overseeing production without directly involved in the process. Ultimately, most homeworkers do not have the knowledge of who is responsible for their salary and working conditions and where to protest should there be any complaint during production process. Another typical model of employment for homeworkers involve small-medium sized enterprise, usually based on familial, community and social ties (ILO/MAMPU Project, 2015). For this condition, it is not easy to organize homeworkers along the lines of traditional trade union.

In 1996 the ILO adopted a Convention on Homework, which requires ratifying states to ‘adopt, implement and periodically review a national policy on homework’ aimed at providing ‘equality of treatment between homework and other wage earners’ (ILO, 1996). However, up to this day the convention has only been ratified by ten countries in the world, and unfortunately Indonesia is not one of them. Moreover, homeworkers are not explicitly defined in the national labour regulations nor in national statistics and there are different understandings surrounding home work among policy makers, general public, and even sometimes among homeworkers themselves.

Considering this condition, this study will try to tackle an urgent need to expose the condition of of home-based workers and find ways to represent their rights.

Based on our research findings, there are several points that we would like to summary several points, such as:

  • Many women who work as homeworkers are found living in slum or squatter settlements in big cities. Their status as urban poor have made them particularly vulnerable to restricted domestic space which affect not only women’s well-being, but also their dignity and self-respect.

  • Homework tends to reinforce the invisibility of women’s work as by transforming ‘home’ into a workplace but utilise the patriarchal notion in locating womanhood as limited only motherhood and housewife to accumulate the capital. Manpower law can provide the foundation of protection of homeworkers, especially in terms of relationship with employers, sub-contracting or outsourcing, remuneration, and social security. The missing elements specific to the homeworkers, such as working hours, occupational health and safety, and child workers can be solved by ratifying ILO Convention 177. The role of intermediaries who facilitate groups formation and advocacy is important in order for homeworkers to be aware of the exploitation they face and they have the ability to advocate for policy change as well as to negotiate for better.

Understanding the complexity of the homeworkers problems, we provide several suggestions to be considered for further steps in order to improve the situation of the homeworkers, particularly by the governments:

  • The interplay between labour market industry with patriarchy result the invisibility of the homeworkers. Substantive equality is important in policy framework analysis by addressing power relation on gender roles.

  • National data collection on homeworkers situation, subcontract status, remuneration/wage and social security is essential to raise the policy gap in Manpower Act, including integrating the substance of the 177 ILO Convention

  • Protection of the basic rights of homeworkers are inseparable with their rights to organisation and freedom of association. Government should engage with civil society to provide basic skills for homeworkers on community leadership, organisational management and negotiation when dealing with their employers.


Leave a Reply