Who Are Home-Based Workers?

Home-based workers (HBWs) are a unique category of informal workers, found the world over. They work from in and around their homes. Home-based workers can be found in a range of industries from traditional occupations like embroidery, carpet making and weaving to new-age work sectors like data processing and assembly of automobile parts.

Home-based work attracts millions of women. They choose home-based work due to the overwhelming burden of care work (household chores along with childcare and care of elderly) that keeps them confined to their homes. They also choose home-based work due to the lack of work opportunities, low access to formal education, and due to cultural norms that do not allow them to take up work outside of their homes..

Home-based workers are of two types:

a) Self-Employed Workers:

Most self-employed home-based workers are own account operators who do not hire workers. However, they may have contributing family workers working alongside them. They buy their own raw materials and are involved in the production process from start to finish. They have direct contact with the market - making and retailing products or providing services from in and around their homes.

b) Sub-Contracted Workers

They are also known as homeworkers or piece-rate workers. They are sub-contracted by firms, traders, organisations or their intermediaries. Homeworkers receive workers orders with specifications, are provided with raw materials, and are paid by the piece produced. They do not have direct access to the market. This means that they rarely know who their primary employer (or the retail company they produce for) is. And where the products they make are finally sold and at what price.


The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that over 260 million people were involved in home-based work before the pandemic. 

There are over 61 million home-based workers in four countries of South Asia alone, including, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. There are also millions of others who are unaccounted for.