As per the Delhi Labour Organization, there are over 5 crore domestic workers among which 80% are women workers and the remaining sector is dominated by children.
Despite carrying such harsh and tiring activities even in abrasive climates (think of winters), their wages are very low. The miserable condition extends up to 15 hours of labour, seven days work with no off, sexual harassment of women, child abuse and a perpetual dependence. In some cases, crime has been committed against domestic workers.
The wages of these domestic workers usually lies below Rs 3000 classifying them as BPL (below poverty line). There is no pension for these workers: a dull future, no medical insurance, no security of job, least chances of promotion in salary and most important very few leaves during an emergency like pregnancy, sickness and even during hospitalization of some important family member.
Domestic Workers are employed in almost every house for carrying household activities. Since there is no government agency to monitor them, the employer takes advantage of the situation. They force them to do extreme household activities at the poorest wages.
Hired and fired at will is what essentially happens.
Even the agencies who help families avail services of domestic workers, sell them like slaves. They don’t guarantee any security for the employee. Children, being the most lenient targets, are harassed to an extreme level in domestic work. Once they enter, there are scarce chances of leaving the job. Some employer doesn’t give the salary of previous work and some blackmail those poor.
I have seen the pathetic working conditions of domestic workers and have also heard of them. In one incident, an upper-class family employed a girl for carrying all household activities. She was a refugee in that city and hence lived in the same house.
I was deeply shocked to see that on one hand, they taught their children Gandhian principles but on the other hand, they harshly beat that poor little girl for even a minor mistake. They limited her food consumption. My heart fell with sorrow when I heard that she used to eat the leftovers hiding from the family and sometimes ate food out of the garbage. When she wanted to leave, they simply beat her up with a belt, ignoring her screams. In my house too, the domestic worker employed is given wages less than BPL (below poverty line) amount.
Sexual harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 does not recognize the importance of the rights of domestic workers. Policies to eradicate child labour too do not recognise domestic work as hazardous. No maternity benefits nor Minimum Wages Act can be applied here.
Hence a policy or agency is in need that can tackle the inhuman conditions of domestic workers. In this direction a bill Domestic Worker Bill Act, 2015 was presented before the parliament by Dr Kirit Premjibhai. Due to its inadequate clause, some flaws and most importantly due to POLITICS by MPs, it got failed to be implemented properly. Thereafter, a demand to regulate the situation of domestic workers was brought up.
What I personally believe is that condition of domestic workers is of more a responsibility of the employers. Everyone needs to understand that domestic workers also deserve to have fundamental rights and enjoy life. They aren’t their property who can be used as they want.
Educating children won’t matter if you set wrong examples in front of them. Employers must first raise the wages to give them a decent livelihood and try to find policies beneficial for them.
Policies like Domestic Workers Bill can regulate the condition of domestic workers. Maintaining a proper record of the conditions of domestic worker is the key success for this policy which can be regulated via the internet easily.
Some policy needs to be embedded especially for domestic workers so as to grant them a safe and prosperous future. We can either amend the old policy to inculcate these problems (a better option as it won’t require new funding sources) or make a new one to deal with them. A strong message must be sent to the evil agencies employing domestic workers and employers that inhuman behaviour with domestic workers won’t be tolerated anymore. NGOs or other agencies working in this direction can reach where the government can’t.