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India pledges 23 billion package for garment workers

India - which has about 4,070 confirmed cases and at least 107 deaths - has pledged a $23 billion stimulus to provide food and cash to millions of its poorest citizens, along with $4 billion drawn from a welfare fund for construction workers. It has also asked companies not to fire workers or cut pay.

According to a 2019 study by the University of California, India’s garment sector employs at least 12 million people in factories, but millions more work from home - mostly women and girls from minority or marginalised communities.

About 85 per cent of home workers exclusively work in supply chains that export to the United States and European Union, it found.

India’s garment factories closed suddenly last month after the government announced a lockdown to run until Apr. 14, and officials have hinted at an extension until the end of April.

Home worker Anitha Nandakumar has been calling her factory agent every other day to find out when she will be paid for the work she completed in February stitching leather shoe uppers.

Despite the poor pay and long hours, several women said they had seen little choice but to work from home as their familal responsibilities meant they were unable to travel to a factory.

For those who were widowed or had a sick husband, the work provided the family’s only source of income, said Sonia Wazed, head of programme for the Society for Labour and Development.

 
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