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Indispensable Domestic Workers

FINALLY GET RECOGNITION

By Dr.S.Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR)

New Delhi, May 11 : India’s over 10 million domestic workers are today finally set to get recognition. A first-ever national policy for these ‘Jack of all trades’ is set to go to the Union Cabinet for approval, entitling them to minimum wages, defined work hours, weekly holiday, paid annual and sick leave and maternity benefits.

Significantly, the thrust of the Draft National Policy for Domestic Workers prepared by the Labour Ministry is to bring servants and naukars under the purview of existing labour laws, which would enable them avail all rights and protection available to other workers. Once approved, domestic workers would be covered by eight existing laws. Namely, Minimum Wages Act, Trade Union Act, Payment of Wages Act, Workmen’s Compensation Act, Maternity Benefit Act, Contract Labour and Equal Remuneration Act.

Once implemented, domestic workers including part-time helps who work in many households would have to register with their respective State labour departments. Which would entitle them to a minimum wage. This varies between States, with the current national floor-level being Rs 115 per day roughly Rs 3,400 a month.

Besides this, the servants would be entitled to annual paid and sick leave. In Delhi, a worker gets privilege leave of not less than 15 days annually and sick or casual leave of not less than 12 days. This is not all. They would get compensation for overtime, social security coverage, protection against abuse and violence, sufficient food and a safe and healthy place to stay.

Women workers would get 12 weeks of maternity leave — six weeks prior to delivery and six weeks post delivery. Also they would be entitled to equal remuneration as men for similar work.

Pertinently, with the servants category expanding fast to provide specialised services like infant and child care, care of the sick and the elderly, cooking, driving, gardening, building maintenance, etc the policy would enable them to form their own trade unions or join any other.

Indeed, the new policy is thanks to various servants associations stepping up pressure demanding speedy ratification and implementation of the recommendations of the International Labour Conference (ILO) governing employment and working conditions of domestic workers held at Geneva in June 2011. Supported by 396 member countries including India it now awaits the Central Government’s ratification.

Undeniably, domestic workers significantly contribute to the economy by providing several kinds of care services.  In fact, families practically depend on their domestic helps for anything and every kind of work, freeing them of indulging in their favourite pastimes and hobbies.

Sadly, however till date these workers continue to remain invisible and under-reported in the labour market, unrecognized in public records including economic reports.  They are marginalised though engaged in work which entitles their employers to enjoy their life and comforts.

Interestingly, many countries do not recognise domestic work as “work” and deny them social and legal protection granted to organized   labour. In India, presently domestic work is treated as “unorganized labour” without any legal security, protection and eligibility for welfare measures.

Furthermore, there is no accurate data on the total number of domestic workers in the world.  Estimates vary from 4 per cent to 10 per cent of total employment in developing countries. According to ILO reports a large proportion of women and girls particularly child labourers’ work as domestic helpers. Though conditions differ from country to country, a common feature about these workers sector is their poverty and helplessness.

In addition, according to the 2001 census about 50 per cent of 80 million inter-State migrants are domestic workers.  A steady stream of rural population from deprived sections and backward areas, largely illiterate and semi-literate, migrate to urban areas individually or with their families. While the men folk enter unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, women and girls end up as domestic workers and roughly constitute over 90 per cent of the total workforce in this sector.

Undoubtedly, with the predominance of women and conspicuous children workers employed in homes it underscores that domestic workers are a part of a much bigger problem. Whereby this widespread invisible women labour and persisting child labour force will not vanish notwithstanding all-out efforts to bring these children into the mainstream.

In sum, the need to regulate domestic work has become urgent because of the increasing number of cases of abuse and ill-treatment of domestic workers not only in India but also by those who take them abroad. Be it via unscrupulous middle men or employers.

Shockingly, many cases of sexual harassment, violence, abuse of   women employees, mostly migrants have come to light. Instances of victimisation at the hands of traffickers/placement agencies and forced migration are a plenty. Women workers abroad are also prone to suffer from loneliness.

Add to this a prevailing atmosphere of mutual suspicions and accusations, whereby employers suspect their domestic helpers of turning informers to burglars and thieves.  Towards that end, the policy rightly stresses the need for registration of placement agencies.

All this is very well, but till the National Domestic Workers Policy is implemented things will continue as they are. Clearly, this needs to be urgently rectified as it is linked with other social development measures. As without this silent domestic workforce many a households would come to a standstill. —- INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

Indispensable Domestic Workers

FINALLY GET RECOGNITION

By Dr.S.Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR)

 

India’s over 10 million domestic workers are today finally set to get recognition. A first-ever national policy for these ‘Jack of all trades’ is set to go to the Union Cabinet for approval, entitling them to minimum wages, defined work hours, weekly holiday, paid annual and sick leave and maternity benefits.

Significantly, the thrust of the Draft National Policy for Domestic Workers prepared by the Labour Ministry is to bring servants and naukars under the purview of existing labour laws, which would enable them avail all rights and protection available to other workers. Once approved, domestic workers would be covered by eight existing laws. Namely, Minimum Wages Act, Trade Union Act, Payment of Wages Act, Workmen’s Compensation Act, Maternity Benefit Act, Contract Labour and Equal Remuneration Act.

Once implemented, domestic workers including part-time helps who work in many households would have to register with their respective State labour departments. Which would entitle them to a minimum wage. This varies between States, with the current national floor-level being Rs 115 per day roughly Rs 3,400 a month.

Besides this, the servants would be entitled to annual paid and sick leave. In Delhi, a worker gets privilege leave of not less than 15 days annually and sick or casual leave of not less than 12 days. This is not all. They would get compensation for overtime, social security coverage, protection against abuse and violence, sufficient food and a safe and healthy place to stay.

Women workers would get 12 weeks of maternity leave — six weeks prior to delivery and six weeks post delivery. Also they would be entitled to equal remuneration as men for similar work.

Pertinently, with the servants category expanding fast to provide specialised services like infant and child care, care of the sick and the elderly, cooking, driving, gardening, building maintenance, etc the policy would enable them to form their own trade unions or join any other.

Indeed, the new policy is thanks to various servants associations stepping up pressure demanding speedy ratification and implementation of the recommendations of the International Labour Conference (ILO) governing employment and working conditions of domestic workers held at Geneva in June 2011. Supported by 396 member countries including India it now awaits the Central Government’s ratification.

     

Undeniably, domestic workers significantly contribute to the economy by providing several kinds of care services.  In fact, families practically depend on their domestic helps for anything and every kind of work, freeing them of indulging in their favourite pastimes and hobbies.

Sadly, however till date these workers continue to remain invisible and under-reported in the labour market, unrecognized in public records including economic reports.  They are marginalised though engaged in work which entitles their employers to enjoy their life and comforts. 

Interestingly, many countries do not recognise domestic work as “work” and deny them social and legal protection granted to organized   labour. In India, presently domestic work is treated as “unorganized labour” without any legal security, protection and eligibility for welfare measures.

Furthermore, there is no accurate data on the total number of domestic workers in the world.  Estimates vary from 4 per cent to 10 per cent of total employment in developing countries. According to ILO reports a large proportion of women and girls particularly child labourers’ work as domestic helpers. Though conditions differ from country to country, a common feature about these workers sector is their poverty and helplessness.

In addition, according to the 2001 census about 50 per cent of 80 million inter-State migrants are domestic workers.  A steady stream of rural population from deprived sections and backward areas, largely illiterate and semi-literate, migrate to urban areas individually or with their families. While the men folk enter unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, women and girls end up as domestic workers and roughly constitute over 90 per cent of the total workforce in this sector. 

Undoubtedly, with the predominance of women and conspicuous children workers employed in homes it underscores that domestic workers are a part of a much bigger problem. Whereby this widespread invisible women labour and persisting child labour force will not vanish notwithstanding all-out efforts to bring these children into the mainstream.

In sum, the need to regulate domestic work has become urgent because of the increasing number of cases of abuse and ill-treatment of domestic workers not only in India but also by those who take them abroad. Be it via unscrupulous middle men or employers.

Shockingly, many cases of sexual harassment, violence, abuse of   women employees, mostly migrants have come to light. Instances of victimisation at the hands of traffickers/placement agencies and forced migration are a plenty. Women workers abroad are also prone to suffer from loneliness.

Add to this a prevailing atmosphere of mutual suspicions and accusations, whereby employers suspect their domestic helpers of turning informers to burglars and thieves.  Towards that end, the policy rightly stresses the need for registration of placement agencies.  

All this is very well, but till the National Domestic Workers Policy is implemented things will continue as they are. Clearly, this needs to be urgently rectified as it is linked with other social development measures. As without this silent domestic workforce many a households would come to a standstill. —- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)