What is Homeworking?
Homebased work is work done mainly by women, for a cash income, either in their homes or in a yard, garage or field near the home. Millions of women around the world do homebased work, or homework, to earn some money at the same time as taking care of children or other relatives, or doing agricultural work.
Homebased workers are usually badly paid - well below minimum wage or average earnings. They have to work to live and when they are sick or old, they have no income. Most work to pay basic living costs for their family.
Women do all kinds of work at home. Homebased work ranges from traditional crafts such as weaving or embroidery; processing natural products like making rope or shelling cashew nuts to industrial work, such as making leather shoes, garments or trimming rubber and plastic parts. It is usually labour-intensive and often done by hand, although some women use sewing machines, soldering irons or presses.
Types of homework
Homebased work is not domestic work - cleaning or childcare done in other people’s homes; or unpaid household work - cleaning, cooking, childcare done by most women for their family.
Homebased work is almost always informal, in the sense that it takes place outside formal systems of labour or social regulation. There is rarely a regular supply of work, and homebased workers do not usually have any rights such as to a minimum wage, to social security or a pension. These workers are rarely counted in official statistics or recognised by trade unions.
Piece-rate and Own Account work
Some women are piece-rate or dependent workers. They produce goods for an employer, even if they only know the agent or intermediary who distributes their work.
Others make products which they sell themselves, for example, making cakes or pastries, weaving cloth, making baskets or doing embroidery. These are own-account workers, although often they are dependent on intermediaries for supplies of raw materials, credit or sales, or they may work for orders or individual customers.
Many women combine different kinds of work. A garment worker, for example, may do factory work when it is available and at other times make clothes for sale to neighbours and friends.
- Usually low paid and irregular work
- Done mostly by women in their own homes
- Usually labour intensive
- Often done by hand
What it is not…
- Household work
What kind of work do homeworkers do?
- Many kinds of manual and some clerical/ administrative work
- Craft work like embroidery or weaving
- Processing natural products such as making rope or shelling cashew nuts
- Industrial work, such as making leather shoes, garments or trimming rubber and plastic parts
- Packing items such as DIY products, tights or greetings cards
- Telesales, virtual call centres, helplines