Its great to be finally publishing our gendered analysis of our work to improve transparency and piece rates for homeworkers stitching leather Footwear in South India. This report was produced using a template from Banalaink and Women Working Worldwide, and extends this important series of gendered case studies in agro-export industries into textile and footwear manufacturing.
Information for Companies
Homeworkers are rarely identified in social audits and remain hidden to many of the Brands whose products they are making. This study reviews the effectiveness of tools and approaches that set out to increase transparency in homeworker chains. The research is the first stage in the development of a Toolkit for Brands and civil society organisations, to increase transparency in supply chains involving dependent homeworkers.
The principal barrier to transparency identified are the failure of Brands to take an inclusive approach towards homeworkers who may be part of their supply chains, making factories unwilling to open up their sub-contract chains to scrutiny. Mixed messages from Brands and in particular, policies prohibiting homeworking, give a message to suppliers not to be open about homeworking. Brands can break this cycle of concealment and denial by adopting a Homeworker Policy which allows homeworking and gives permission to their suppliers to disclose its presence.
To find out more, download the report, or take a look at our blog on the Ethical trading initiative’s website
We are inviting brands to work with us, to extend supply chain monitoring to reach hidden workers beyond first tier suppliers. We are keen to collaborate with all supply chain stakeholders to help homeworkers access their rights and improve their working conditions.
Homeworking can be found all across South Asia, doing many different tasks, including embroidery, sewing and finishing clothes, assembling jewellery and stitching leather shoes, both for domestic and international retailers.
Typically employed informally by subcontractors or intermediaries, and drawn from the poorest communities, women homeworkers are often the worst paid and most insecure workers in most companies' supply chains. Homeworkers' employment is irregular, precarious and sometimes hazardous, and their very low rates of pay creates a risk of child labour. As a result, the presence of homeworkers is often hidden by suppliers and may not be disclosed at audits.
Despite this, for many women, especially those with young children, homeworking offers a vital source of family income. Covid-19 has hit homeworkers particularly hard, leaving many unpaid and without future orders, with no social security and many unable to even access the limited government relief that is available in some parts of the region.
Hidden Homeworkers is a consortium of NGOs supporting homeworkers producing for global brands in the apparel and footwear industries in India, Pakistan and Nepal, and other women in precarious employment, co-funded by the European Union. Team members include Traidcraft Exchange, HomeNet South Asia, Homeworkers Worldwide and local HNSA members including SEWA Delhi and SAVE in Tirupur.
HWW has today published a factsheet, highlighting the different stages in the journey towards the decent employment of homeworkers, and listing the actions that brands can take to safeguard this vulnerable group of women workers. We are also aware that some brands have been working with their suppliers to address homeworking issues for some time. Through the Hidden Homeworkers project, we are currently documenting case studies and examples of good practice, to produce a Toolkit that brings together and shares the learning and proven steps which companies can take to improve the employment conditions of the homeworkers in their supply chains. Contact lucy(at)homeworkersww.org.uk if you have a case study to contribute to this exciting initiative.
I'm proud to be publishing today the results of our Consultation exercise in 2019, with homeworkers stitching shoes for Pentland Brands in Tamil Nadu. Homeworkers Worldwide worked with our partners Cividep India to trace homeworkers in this supply chain. Tme and motion studies were carried out to establish a fair piece rate for the hand stitching work, and homeworkers' wages subsequently increased in line with this. Our final confirmation exercise with all stakeholders including the homeworkers confirmed that homeworkers' piece rates rose by one third on average, a substantial increase for these low paid women workers. The study also highlighted the importance of brands sourcing from the region to work collaboratively to maintain these gains and extend them to other suppliers. Please get in touch with lucy at homeworkersww.org.uk to find out more about this initiative.
Homeworkers Worldwide is now working with Traidcraft Exchange and HomeNet South Asia on their Hidden Homeworkers project, to improve the working conditions for homeworkers in apparel and footwear supply chains in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Hidden Homeworkers is a four-year programme that aims to work collaboratively with brands and multi-stakeholder initiatives to map supply chains down to the homeworker level. The programme will help brands introduce simple systems that document homeworkers’ contribution and wages, and develop action plans that drive transparency, best practices and improve working conditions. For more information, see the flyer attached, or contact Lucy Brill at Homeworkers Worldwide.
HWW is publishing our Human Rights Due Diligence monitoring report on the leather footwear industry in eastern Tamil Nadu. This summarises the key learnings from our 2018 project funded by the Ethical Trading Initiative's Innovation Fund, which worked with two ETI retailers sourcing from these supply chains, highlighting labour rights risks for both homeworkers and factory workers, many of whom are women, involved in footwear manufacturing in South India.
This summary report describes the first phase of our on-going project with Pentland Brands, tracing the homeworkers within their leather footwear supply chain in South India.
Homeworkers Worldwide recommends companies adopt a homeworking policy, stating their positive recognition of the role homeworkers play in supply chains. This model homeworking policy provides a useful template with key principles to help you draw up your own company homeworking policy.
This Toolkit was produced by Traidcraft and Homeworkers Worldwide. It was produced in response to requests from companies for practical guidance, and examples of good practice to support their efforts to address child labour in the home-based craft sector. The ‘Toolkit’ was developed as part of the EC-funded project ‘Sustainable solutions in the fight against child labour in home-based craft production.’ The project was developed and implemented in partnership with ‘Fair Trade Forum India’, ‘Centre for Education and Communication’ and Traidcraft Exchange.