The novel coronavirus (COVID19) has spread to all countries and at the last count Pakistan had over 200 cases. The response of most countries, based on the recommendations of health specialists, is social distancing, close schools, offices, shops and businesses and work from home. While this may be easy for white-collar workers, it is impossible for daily wage workers.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement asking the government to protect “the poor and vulnerable, particularly on daily-wage labourers and workers who rely on the ‘gig economy’ to keep their households afloat.” As HRCP noted “It is not charity, but the responsibility of the state, to ensure food security and access to healthcare for all its citizens.”
As HRCP stated, “Even if saved from illness, low-income groups will still contend with acute food insecurity. The lack of adequate social safety nets, such as paid leave and medical benefits, means that the overwhelming majority of workers and their families are especially vulnerable in this crisis. HRCP is sorely disappointed with the economic policies of the incumbent government, which has failed to deliver for the majority population. It is time to shift priorities, from subsidising rich individuals and institutions in the name of stabilisation and growth, to putting the wellbeing of ordinary citizens at the centre of any policy planning. The Commission demands that immediate cash and food transfers be organised for the poor and for daily-wage earners, in addition to ensuring their access to free medical care in these testing times. HRCP also demands that health workers, who are at the frontlines of this emergency, be provided the protective gear they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.”