International Labour Day in South Asia

With nearly 500 million people India has the biggest “labour market” after China. 52% are engaged in agriculture and horticulture; more of 90% of all Indian workers are considered working in informal sectors and often earn insufficient income to sustain the livelihood of their families.

Youth unemployment is high in South Asia such as Child labour is. As per data of the International Labour Organization (ILO) world wide 215 Millions of children have to work; often under harmful, hazardous or even dangerous conditions. In South Asia region around 12% of children between 5 and 14 years are involved in child labour; with 34% the rate is much higher in Nepal, nearly 80% of them are engaged in subsistence farming.

Work safety is widely neglected as the textile fabric in the outskirts of Dhaka / Bangladesh proved that collapsed end of March (more then 400 workers died). Most workers in South Asia have no access to social protection schemes; if a riksha puller falls sick his family often is not able to get food and all too often medical treatment is not possible as per lack of savings.

Internal such as international migration became a relevant livelihood strategy for large sections of society in Bangladesh, Nepal and India. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) names the confirmed number of 3 Million Nepalis working abroad, contributing 23% to Nepals GDP. Every day 900 migrant workers are leaving Nepal, mostly to Malaysia, India and to the Gulf countries. Alone 3 Million Bangladeshis work in Saudi Arabia; most of them under dangerous and often inhuman conditions without protection gear at a temperature of over 40 Degree Celsius.

On the occasion of 1st of May many partners of AWO International remembered the value of work as well as the challenging living and working contexts of many people in South Asia; the Regional Office remained closed.

As a traditional worker’s organization AWO supports a huge range of social welfare services in Germany (for example capacity development and counselling of jobless persons for their reintegration in the labour market, advocacy & lobbying for workers interests).

In South Asia AWO International promotes a huge variety of development measures that benefit workers and their children. Some examples are:

- Access to safe migration for potential migrants such as support for families of migrants and skill development trainings for potential and returning migrants.

- Lobby and advocacy measures at local regional and national level for migrants, small farmers such as land rights issues

- Promotion of access to information, governmental services and resources as well as social protection schemes (for example health and live insurance)

- Support for small farmers in context of organic agriculture and low input techniques (LEISA-Techniques) to reduce the dependency on money lenders (for purchasing hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides) and to reduce the debts many farmers have (every year more than 10.000 small farmers in India commit suicide as they do not see a way for their future). One project promotes the right for work of women and organizes them in vegetable cooperatives (nutrition and income in the respective households increased essential)

- Promotion of food and livelihood security by capacitating people (for example for the establishment of grain and seed banks, development friendly utilization of remittance), establishment of saving & credit groups and enabling access to skill development measures and entrepreneurship trainings  

- Creation of local structures (CBOs, cooperatives, self help and saving & credit groups, local networks, federations) to address the needs of marginalized groups who are mostly active in subsistence farming and other informal sectors. This local structures are also used to discuss social issues (for example, work distribution between men and women, decision making processes about household income, domestic violence, etc) and for  awareness raising for various relevant issues

- Support of access of boys and girls such as adult change agents of marginalized groups to education, for example by providing informal education and bridge classes for children who were not able to catch up / had no access to the formal education system

Indian cotton farmers often get overindebted and dependent to middle men

Exploited porters in Nepal. Workers rights are often neglected in South Asia

Migrants before leaving to the Arabian Gulf at Kathmandu International Airport

Many children are forced to work and miss educational opportunities for a better future

Very often work load of women is under estimated as house hold works is not considered as work