The fashion industry's invisible workforce

For many retailers, India is the place to find the skills required to produce the exquisite hand-worked, embellished clothing and accessories that fashion-conscious consumers love. Yet although homeworkers are the backbone of this Indian export industry, the complex and informal supply chains that typify the garment industry mean they are often hard to trace.

And because of their informal status in the economy, homeworkers often suffer poorer living and working conditions compared to formal sector workers. Low wages, irregularity of work, lack of social protection, high rates of occupational injury, lack of access to training and information about rights and entitlements, as well as weak bargaining power have been identified as common concerns for homeworkers in India.

Resources from ETI programmes with homeworkers

You'll find a wealth of information and guidance on homeworkers and homeworking generated from ETI programme work, designed to help companies and other interested organisations to improve working conditions of homeworkers in global supply chains.

View ETI resources on homeworkers

Homeworkers or home workers are defined by the International Labour Organization as people working from their homes or from other premises of their choosing other than the workplace, for payment, which results of a product or service specified by the employer. There are an estimated 300 million homeworkers in the world[citation needed], though because these workers generally function in the informal economy, and are seldom registered and often not contracted, exact numbers are difficult to come by. Recently, the phenomenon of homework has grown with increased communication technology, as well as changes in supply chains, particularly the development of Just In Time inventory systems. Homeworkers are often employed in piece work.

Homeworkers differ from entrepreneurs, or self-employed, or family business, in that they are hired by companies for specific activities or services to be done from their homes. Homeworkers do not own or operate the business they work for. Though there is a significant body of highly skilled homeworkers, particularly in information technology, most homeworkers are considered low skilled labour. Recently, working conditions have worsened for homeworkers[citation needed], and they are becoming a point of concern for international development organizations and non-governmental organizations[citation needed].

See also[edit]


  • Global trade and home work: closing the divide by Annie Delaney, Gender and Development,Vol 12, No 2, pp 22–28, July 2004
  • Home Work Convention C177, 1996 by ILO, available at http://www.itcilo.org/actrav/actrav-english/telearn/global/ilo/law/iloc177.htm
  • Organising home-based workers in the global economy: An action-research approach by Ruth Pearson, Development in Practice, Vol 14, Nos 1&2, pp136–148, February 2004

External links[edit]

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