People that work from home need better protection, especially since their numbers have greatly increased due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued yesterday.
"Since working from home occurs in a private environment, it is often considered 'invisible'," the ILO said in its report styled, 'Working from home. From invisibility to decent work'.
These people are usually worse off financially than those who work outside their homes, even when it comes to higher-skilled professions.
On average, home-based workers earn 13 per cent less than their traditional counterparts in the UK, 22 per cent less in the US, 25 per cent less in South Africa and about 50 per cent less in Argentina, India and Mexico.
They also face greater health and safety risks, the report said.
Besides, they also have less access to training compared to non home-based workers, it added.
The report also shows that home workers do not receive the same level of social protection as other workers and are less likely to be a part of a trade union or be covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, the number of home-based workers worldwide stood at about 260 million, 56 per cent of which were women, representing roughly 7.9 per cent of global employment.
They include tele workers who work remotely on a continual basis and a vast number of people who are involved in the production of goods that cannot be automated, such as embroidery, handicrafts and electronics assembly.
Another category includes digital platform workers and service providers, such as processing insurance claims, copy-editing and data annotation for artificial intelligence systems.
In the first months of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, an estimated one-in-five workers found themselves working from home.
Data for the whole year, once it is available, is expected to show a substantial increase in home-based workers compared to the previous year. The growth of working from home is likely to continue in the coming years.
This brings renewed urgency to the need to address the issues facing home workers and their employers, the report said.
Home working is often poorly regulated and compliance with existing laws remains a challenge. In many cases, home workers are classified as independent contractors and are 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 working from home.
But still, only 10 ILO member states have ratified Convention No. 177, that promotes equality of treatment between home workers and other wage earners.
"Few already have a comprehensive policy on working from home," said Janine Berg, ILO senior economist and one of the report's authors.
The report includes concrete recommendations to make home working more visible and therefore, better protected.
For industrial home workers, the report underlines the importance of facilitating their transition to the formal economy by extending legal protections, improving compliance, generalising written contracts, providing access to social security and making home workers aware of their rights.