Tuesday, 5 September 2017

India's domestic worker

  • In India domestic worker is ubiquitous, where nearly all middle-class and wealthier households have a maid, a cook, a nanny or a driver - and sometimes all four.
  • Domestic work means ‘being employed to perform household tasks in others’ homes for financial compensation. It is the largest female occupation in urban India with estimates ranging between 10 million to over 50 million.
  • Most of India's domestic workers are girls and women that constitute over two-thirds of the workforce in this unorganised sector, which also includes chauffeurs and security guards.
  • Live-in domestic workers are completely dependent on their employers for their basic needs such as food, living conditions, medical needs and freedom to leave the homes they work in, which makes their situation akin to modern day slavery.
  • India's domestic worker is invisible, unrecognized, overworked, underpaid and abused.
  • Horror stories are abound from physical and sexual violence to mental torture from being given rotten food to eat to jail like incarceration. 
  • A survey indicated that 2.2% of women are employed as domestic workers. Unofficial estimates range widely from 2.5 to 9 million women. 
  • There are at least 67 million domestic workers globally, and about 80% of them are women. There are more than 5 lakh Indian domestic workers in Gulf countries.
  • Domestic work is a growing sector in India and has potential to be a valuable source of income for millions of women who are minimally educated and low skilled.
  • In the decade after liberalization, there was a nearly 120% rise in the number of domestic between 1991 and 2001. Domestic workers has increased 222% since 1999 to 2011. The total domestic workers vary from 4.75 million to 6.4 million. 
  • Number of female literates has jumped from 29.76% in 1981 to 65.46% in 2011. Despite this, the domestic service sector growing at an accelerated pace because most young educated and working urban women want to hire domestic help. The immense growth of the population, the numbers of women working outside the home have gone up.
  • Even when there is no visible abuse there are violations amounting to torture.
  • There are some employers who treat domestic workers with courtesy & respect and guarantee the rights they are entitled to but there are no laws to protect them at all. Domestic workers are not workers at all.
  • Domestic workers can be made to work up to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week without break or leave. Livelihood of large number of women from most vulnerable marginalized backgrounds falls into this category.
  • In this sector human rights abuse is rampant. No minimum wage and every benefit is at the employer's whim. Because they are poor and often uneducated they have very little bargaining power.
  • Most abused women domestic workers don't complain as it is difficult to get the law into homes.
  • A major amendment to the Child Labour Act prohibits employment of children below 14 years age. The sexual harassment of women workplace Act 2013 includes domestic workers within its purview. However without clarity and exclusive law safeguarding their interests implementation is an uphill task.
  • As long as it is unrecognized by law and policy few changes here and there will remain individual acts of fairness and compassion. They are welcome but insufficient.
  • A bill to provide domestic workers with a minimum monthly salary of Rs. 9,000 and benefits including social security cover and mandatory time off is awaiting passage.

Progress of a nation is inversely proportional to 
number of its maids employed as domestic workers

Television, cell phone and social media are now accessible to all including domestic workers. Their awareness is increasing and are getting networked. Very soon India will find their bargaining power increased and with home automation gadgets like washing machines etc number of people employed as domestic workers at below reasonable prices will diminish and vanish. That would be a good sign. An interesting observation is that some drivers refuse to accept employment in small cars without power steering, air conditioning and music systems. Minimum wages act may not do much wonders but supply-demand will rule the society.

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