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Domestic Workers

In: Social Issues

Submitted By meenu298
Words 5096
Pages 21
ABSTRACT
A domestic worker is a person who works within the employer’s household. Domestic workers perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to cleaning and household maintenance, known as housekeeping. Responsibilities may also include cooking, doing laundry and ironing, food shopping and other household errands. Some domestic workers live within the household where they work. At its 301st Session (March 2008), the ILO Governing Body agreed to place an item on decent work for domestic workers on the agenda of the 99th Session of the International Labour Conference (2010) with a view to the setting of labour standards. The conditions faced by domestic workers have varied considerably throughout history and in the contemporary world. In the course of twentieth-century movements for labour rights, women’s rights and immigrant rights, the conditions faced by domestic workers and the problems specific to their class of employment have come to the fore. In 2011, the International Labour Organization adopted the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers which covers decent work conditions for domestic workers. Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses of 117 countries, place the number of domestic workers at around 53 million. But the ILO itself states that “experts say that due to the fact that this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered, the total number of domestic workers could be as high as 100 million.
Most domestic workers are from the marginalized sections of society and a large number of them are migrant workers. Workers range from full-time to part-time workers, skilled and unskilled workers. The Draft National Policy on Domestic Workers as recommended by the Taskforce on Domestic Workers provides a definition of a domestic worker as: “For the purpose of this policy, the “domestic worker” means, a person who is employed for remuneration whether in cash or kind, in any household through any agency or directly, either on a temporary or permanent, part time or full time basis to do the household work, but does not include any member of the family of an employer:
Types of domestic workers, based on the hours of work and nature of employment relationship:
The domestic workers can be:
a) Part-time worker i.e. worker who works for one or more employers for a specified number of hours per day or performs specific tasks for each of the multiple employers every day.
b) Full‐time worker i.e. worker who works for a single employer every day for a specified number of hours (normal full day work) and who returns back to her/his home every day after work.
c) Live-in worker i.e. worker who works full time for a single employer and also stays on the premises of the employer or in a dwelling provided by the employer (which is close or next to the house of the employer) and does not return back to her/his home every day after work.”
Size and Significance
While no reliable statistics determine the number of workers in the sector, the data analysis of the NSSO (61st Round, 2004-5) reveals an approximate figure of approximately 4.2 million domestic workers in the country. The contribution of the workers in this sector is rarely computed within the economy.
Working Conditions
No formal contracts ensuring an employer-employee relationship, lack of organization, poor bargaining power, no legislative protection, and inadequate welfare measures with no provision for weekly holidays, maternity leave and health benefits are the some of the key issues that need to be addressed. This lack of regulation has led to countless violations of domestic workers’ rights, including working hours ranging between 8 and 18 hours and the absence of any job security. Domestic workers invariably represent the more marginalized communities in society. Prejudice and bias related to social status is reflected very strongly at the workplace for many domestic workers. Female domestic workers, especially those who live in their employer’s home, are vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Wages
Wages for the domestic workers are determined by factors such as tasks performed, hours of work, their social status, skills (or the lack of it), the need for flexibility and other labour market conditions. There are on-going debates over the norms for setting wages. These debates include several tricky issues such as whether the wage ought to be time rated or piece rated, in kind, hourly or weekly, part-time or full time; based on house size or persons per household, over time; adjusted for boarding, include medical care and other necessities and multiplicity of employers.
Law and Policies
Several states have attempted a variety of approaches to protect the rights of Domestic Workers. Tamil Nadu included domestic workers in their Manual Workers Act and created a separate board for them while Maharashtra is actively considering a law for them, with draft bills under discussion. Maharashtra has published a code of conduct. Under Section 27 (A) of the Maharashtra State Public Service Conduct Act, 1997, the Maharashtra government prohibits government employees from employing children below 14 as domestic workers. Such rules can be found in the rule books of 18 other state. Karnataka has notified minimum wages for domestic workers and Kerala has followed suit. The Government of India has amended the Central Civil Service Conduct rules to prohibit Civil Servants from employing children below the age of 14 as domestics.
The latest in a series of efforts to address the concerns of Domestic Workers are the two draft bills brought out in 2008 by the National Commission for Women and the National Campaign Committee of Unorganised Sector Workers also in 2008.
Organization and Voice
Organizing domestic workers has been a huge challenge as the work place is inaccessible and multiple, marked by a high rate of attrition and instability. As a result, the demand for the better wages or working conditions through an organized union has been weak and scattered. A strong and well organized work force has been pivotal in ensuring progressive policy and legislation, while simultaneously enabling better enforcement of existing legislations.
Platform of Demands
Some of the specific demands of domestic workers are:
a) Recognition of domestic workers as workers.
b) Decent working conditions, including specified working hours, leave, paid holidays, protection against harassment, social security and access to benefits
c) Regulation of recruitment and placement agencies.

Workers are women and many are migrant workers.
SUMMARY OF NATIONAL CONSULTATION ON DECENT WORK FOR DOMESTIC WORK,
15-16 JULY 2009
The National Consultation Decent Work for Domestic Work, 15-16 July 2009 brought together unions and civil society organizations working on domestic workers and related issues. Employers’ Organizations were invited but unfortunately could not be present. The objectives of the meeting were -
• To obtain a consolidated view from unions and civil society organizations working on domestic workers issues on key issues relating to regulation of domestic worker that merits reflection in the ILC questionnaire.
• A consolidated view on a national level action plan and how ILO can help technically support them. After presentations on domestic workers and their situation (wages, working conditions) in Delhi, and the role/ experience in organizing domestic workers, five technical sessions, each focusing on key components of domestic work were held.
ILS process and issues
The Standards Specialist presented the fundamentals of ILS, such as the adoption process, ratification and supervisory mechanisms. The timeframe for ILC standard setting on domestic work was also shared with the participants. Furthermore, key provisions under Conventions that are relevant to domestic workers were presented. Discussion also covered the need to get employers’ organizations perspectives, although these are not the “true” employers of domestic workers.
Definitions
A discussion on definition attempted to identify some “principles” on which to define domestic workers. Some such examples were shared
• Based on tasks (cleaning, cooking…and so on)
• Based on location of work (Household)
• Based on who employed them (private households).
Examples of domestic work definitions from the Indian Acts and Bills are as follows:
• “domestic work” means household work like sweeping, cleaning utensils, washing clothes, cooking and such other manual work as is mutually agreed between the employer and domestic worker carried out at the work place
(Maharashtra Domestic Workers Welfare Board Act No 1 of 2009).
• “domestic servant” means any person who earns his livelihood by working in the household of his employer and doing household chores (The Housemaids and Domestic Servants (Conditions of Service and Welfare) Bill 2004, Rajya Sabha).
• “domestic worker” means a person between the age of 15 and 60 years working in any domestic employments, directly or through any agency or contractor whether exclusively for one employer or in a group or otherwise one or more employers whether simultaneously or otherwise and includes a casual or temporary domestic worker; migrant worker. But does not include any member of the family of an employer; Domestic Workers (Regulation of Employment, Condition of Work, Social Security and Welfare) Bill 2008- Nirmala Niketan and National Campaign for Unorganised Workers)
• “domestic worker” means, a person who is employed for remuneration whether in cash or in kind, n any household through any agency or directly, either on a temporary basis or permanent, part time or full time to do the household work or allied work. Explanation: household and allied work includes but is not limited to activities such as cooking or part of it, washing clothes or utensils, cleaning or dusting of the house, caring/nursing of the children/sick/old/handicapped. (Domestic Workers Registration, Social Security and Welfare) Act 2008- NCW Draft Bills
In view of previous discussion on this subject, the majority view (based on those present) seemed to be that domestic work should apply to any work performed in a home (household) for household members. Definition should also emphasize that domestic work is work performed in homes (other than one’s own) for remuneration, regardless of cash or in-kind payment.
The above will include all tasks that are done in a home but exclude workers whose work is undertaken outside the home, such as drivers, personally hired security guards, gardeners to some extent. The above exclusion reflects a rationale based on vulnerability of workers who are confined to private “invisible” spaces and risk this poses to bonded labour, and other forms of abuse arising out of restricted mobility.
The disadvantage of this rationale is that it misses the important specificity of domestic work, which is that they are workers employed by private households where labour laws / inspection norms are difficult to apply. Hence, another rationale on which to define domestic workers, albeit it seemed to have received less support, was based on “who employs the worker”. Drivers, security guards, and gardeners face the same vulnerability in terms of informality and limited access to schemes meant for “workers” as long as they are employed by private households. Excluding these workers puts them in an extremely invisible position.
Drivers, for example, do not seem to be in the domestic work ISCO category (ref ILC report box III.1) but given that many households employ drivers, the rationale for their exclusion warrants a careful consideration.
Notwithstanding, an overarching consideration expressed for excluding certain categories of workers who work for households is that while a large majority of domestic workers who work within households are women, workers such as drivers, gardeners and security guards who work outside are men who not only have better bargaining capacity, but also receive comparatively better remuneration. Hence the exclusion of these workers in the definition will give it a focused attention on the most vulnerable. Secondly, certain tasks such as cleaning, dusting washing utensils have the lowest value in pay and perception as “work”. Thus it is necessary to single them out to enable policies to cater to the vulnerabilities.
Some considered it important to define domestic work based on tasks performed – domestic and related helpers, cleaners…” covering private households, hotels, offices and hospitals and other establishments. In this context, workers who are hired to work in wedding halls, building complexes, were sited, who in the Indian context are informal / casual workers hired as and when required. Some also thought it was important to define as domestic workers those who worked in enterprises/ businesses where the owners also resided. However, the majority view was that these workers are included in existing laws. What are required were implementation laws to ensure adequate working conditions. Including these workers under the definition will make it too broad and difficult to implement.
Wages
Several existing studies point to the significant contribution domestic workers’ wages make to family income. Their wages are low but constitute a steady income in the household as the husbands generally have unsteady income as workers in the informal economy. A recent study conducted by the Institute of Social Studies Trust showed that the variables which influence wages are location, socio-economic profile of employers, tasks performed and combination of tasks.
Several States have notified minimum wages for domestic work but have no norms for implementation or monitoring. A discussion took place to unpack the questions on wage calculation – and the varied norms and principles for the part-timers and fulltimers.
An important point made was that wages were self-regulated (based on the variables mentioned above) and most workers were aware of the prevailing rate in the localities and were prepared not to accept less. However workers who for one reason or another were not part of any (informal) social networks did not have access to such information and they were the ones who accepted lower rates due to ignorance. Many were aware of location based differences in rates however could not travel the distance due to their own child care responsibilities, etc. These were important inputs to confirm the positive impact of organizing workers and to make such “floors” also present in issues such as medical fees, overtime, annual leave and bonuses. The focus of the discussion was on how to set minimum wages. Majority was of the view that “minimum wages” should be based on consideration of a living wage and establishes the floor which all domestic workers (applicable by locality, etc) should receive. Furthermore it should be time rated rather than piece rated. That would make calculation of overtime simpler. Many voiced that employers income should also be reflected in the calculation of minimum wages, possibly by establishing by decentralized “boards” which can consider location specific wage and other issues which can be topped up on the basic minimum wage.
In terms of in-kind payment, there were no agreements on the percentage of in-kind payment permissible (ILO Convention mentions not more than 50 percent). It was however pointed out that minimum wage should be in monetary terms. Moreover, items considered “in-kind” should be specified so as not to confuse them with “incentives” such as clothing on demand.
In terms of accommodation, there are several different arrangements- quarter, room and living in the house in the same space as the family. Accommodation can be a great support as well as a source of exploitation. Cost of accommodation should be only considered “in-kind” if it is a separate living quarter where the worker can be granted privacy and for example be able to live with her family. A space in the house should not be considered as accommodation worthy of in-kind payment. Moreover, automatic deduction should be avoided, and workers should receive their pay in full in cash to bring dignity. Food should be automatically provided if the worker lives in the house of the employer.
Wages should also take into account the skills of the worker. This may be taken up by a decentralized board, or be based on negotiation between the worker and employer (above the minimum wage). Norms must be fixed to ensure that no wages are deducted when workers take paid leave, when employers go out. Furthermore, many supported that they should be paid 10 per cent increment annually, one month bonus also. The workers must be paid every month, and written account of the payments due and the amounts paid to be given. To this end, most participants supported the development of a model contract that is legally binding.
Working conditions: Hours of work, leave arrangements, social security and
OSH
The following issues were covered in this session.
Working time:
• Weekly hours, hours worked at night and weekly rest periods.
• Stand by, freedom to leave the house.
Living conditions:
• Accommodation/privacy, food and water.
Social Security/OSH
• Sickness, injury, maternity, invalidity.
• Safety at work, sexual harassment.
• Unemployment and pensions.
Leave
• Maternity
• Privilege, casual and sick leave.
An important point for discussion- bearing in mind the specificity of domestic workwhether policies/ legislations were to ensure that domestic workers are treated “not less favourably” as other wage workers. In such a case, the issue is who pays for the benefits and associated costs, the extent of coverage to be provided and to what extent the provisions should be statutory as opposed to a more flexible arrangement of individually negotiated contracts?
All agreed that domestic workers should not be treated less favourably compared to other wage earners. This means not less favourably than workers covered under the factories Act and other similar acts.
Working time: The maximum number of working hours for an adult worker should not exceed 48 hours in a week and nine hours in a day. Any worker working for more than the maximum prescribed time is entitled to wages in respect of such overtime work at twice the ordinary rate of wages. Every worker must be allowed one holiday in a week, on any day. Whenever a worker is required to work on a weekly holiday, he is to be allowed a compensatory holiday for each holiday so lost, within the same month or within two months immediately following that month are such examples.
In terms of rest period, many suggested 10 hours of consecutive rest period where overtime should be prohibited. Meal intervals should be provided after 5 hours of consecutive work for live-in workers.
Regulating working time can be conceived for full-time (live-in) workers but it would be difficult to place any regulation on part-time workers. For part-time workers, the wages will automatically work as a self-regulating mechanism. Others considered that a setting up of a “tripartite board” could help in monitoring and regulating for part time workers. There were different suggestions on the extent of notice period that should be provided, ranging from one month to up to two months, but all participants agreed that a notice period or an equivalent compensation in salary was required.
Living conditions: As mentioned in the previous section on wages, accommodation can range from a separate staff quarter, room and living in the house in the same space as the family. Of key concern was the issue of privacy and how to define it. It was agreed that if a family cannot offer “reasonable” degree of privacy and accommodation that is safe and decent, respects the worker’s privacy and provides meals of good quality and sufficient quantity, they should not be permitted to have live-in domestic workers. In addition to living condition, it was mentioned that the use of toilets in the house as an important issues where many households denied access of toilets to their domestic workers due to caste based discrimination. Access to toilets during work was essential. A special emphasis needs to be placed on prevention and punishment of sexual harassment.
Furthermore, policy efforts need to be strengthened to develop working women’s hostels that can be used by domestic workers as many would like to be able to live out or at least have a place to go for their weekly day off.
Social Security: All agreed that domestic workers should be entitled to social security, maternity benefits and leave that are no less favourable than wage workers. This leaves the question of who pays for the associated costs. Several welfare board models have been suggested (including those already in place) but it was pointed out that these boards are not functioning very effectively. The benefits also needs to be offered based on sound actuarial calculations of the costs and contributions required for sickness, injury, education grant and maternity protection. In terms of contribution to the welfare boards, it should be state, workers and employers. Many participants expressed the need to study existing welfare models with a view to analyzing their challenges and how they could be implemented effectively.
Leave: There are largely four categories of leave; maternity leave, privilege, casual and sick leave. Many strongly emphasized the need to offer fully paid, or at least at 80 per cent of the original salary, maternity leave of no less than 14 weeks The worker should be able to go back to the original employment at the end of the leave. The worker should be entitled to pay sick leave (wages not to be cut) for 12 days a year as well as benefits to be provided in the event of long term illness. Both live in and live out workers should receive one month privilege leave and when the employer goes on leave the wages should not be cut. Although some voiced the need to be realistic when advocating for paid maternity leave employment protection, many believed this could be worked out through a welfare board.
Enforcement
Labour inspection requires access to the household, which may come in conflict with principle of privacy within the family/ home. An important enforcement mechanism is also in developing grievance mechanisms. Some of the welfare board models that are being discussed by various organizations working on domestic workers have considered a grievance mechanism/cell within the board. Also important is to strengthen organizations of domestic workers, particularly through trade unions. Expanding the scope of existing laws-often through the change in definition on “workmen” or “workplace”- to extend application to domestic workers is important. This is especially the case in regulating the so called “placement agencies”. A recent study indicates that at present, there are no laws to regulate the functioning of domestic workers placement agencies, though there are laws to regulate employment and placement of migrant and contract workers. None of the present laws recognize households or homes as workplaces but are treated as private spheres which are beyond the reach of any labour laws. Thus, domestic workers do not come under the definition of ‘workmen’, which places placement agencies safely outside the existing regulatory framework.
In regulating placement agencies, it is important to re-conceptualise what is meant by domestic worker placement agencies. All participants agreed that if an agency is to be considered a ‘placement agency’, it needs to have certain positive qualifying criteria, such as being a “service provider” who places domestic workers in households for a fee, and operate with the principle of promoting the welfare of domestic workers and uphold their rights, that these providers will not have any role in salary collection or payment, etc. In order to weed out unscrupulous operators driven purely by profit and practicing exploitative tactics, it was suggested that those not conforming to the “Positive criteria” shall not be authorized. A separate registration for domestic workers placement agencies may therefore be required to ensure that they comply with the criteria.
A contract will assist in establishing employment relationships between a domestic worker and employer in addition to making the terms of employment clearer. Model contracts can be promoted and placed, for example in welfare boards, websites, trade unions, RWA offices, and so on.
Next Steps
The consultation served its purpose which was to provide a forum for civil society organizations already active in domestic workers’ rights to discuss elements of the questionnaire based on existing initiatives both in law and practice. Drafting Committees for certain sections have been formed and they will coordinate and own the responses. The responses will be sent to the ILO directly and also to ILO constituents for inclusion in their responses. Parallel to the ILC process, the organizations present suggested the following ground level action to be pursued together:
• Compilation of welfare board challenges and successes to identify a good model for domestic workers;
• Consolidated action to demand inclusion of domestic worker in the Minimum Wages Act and the development of a welfare board in every State.
• Developing an effective social security system for domestic workers
• Facilitate linkages between Labour Departments and civil society organizations, particularly Unions, NGOs and Resident Welfare Organizations.
Domestic Workers:
There are no reliable statistics about the number of domestic workers in the country. Dominated largely by women and children, effective laws and policies to protect these workers has been elusive. Domestic workers comprise those who work part-time in several households and those who are “live-ins” dependent upon their employer for boarding and lodging. Placement agencies, which bring in workers from other states to work in large metros, are completely unregulated. The latest in a series of efforts to address the concerns of Domestic Workers are the two draft bills brought out in 2008 by the National Commission for Women and the National Campaign Committee of Unorganised Sector Workers also in 2008. Several states have attempted a variety of approaches to protect the rights of Domestic Workers. Tamil Nadu included domestic workers in their Manual Workers Act and created a separate board for them while Maharashtra is actively considering a law for them, with draft bills under discussion. Maharashtra has published a code of conduct. Under Section 27 (A) of the Maharashtra State Public Service Conduct Act, 1997, the Maharashtra government prohibits government employees from employing children below 14 as domestic workers. Such rules can be found in the rule books of 18 other state. Karnataka has notified minimum wages for domestic workers and Kerala has followed suit. The Government of India has amended the Central Civil Service Conduct rules to prohibit Civil Servants from employing children below the age of 14 as domestics.
No formal contracts ensuring an employer-employee relationship, lack of organization, poor bargaining power, no legislative protection, and inadequate welfare measures, better working conditions with weekly holidays, maternity leave and health benefits are the some of the key issues that need to be addressed. This lack of regulation has led to countless violations of domestic workers’ rights, including working hours ranging between 8 and 18 hours and the absence of any job security. Apart of these, there are other specific concerns relating to the sector such as sexual harassment, harassment by the police and the need to regulate placement agencies.
It is the experience of both Karnataka and Maharashtra that even the minimal protections accorded by the law are difficult to implement. Time and again, the labour department has expressed its inability to monitor the implementation.
As part of our mapping, we have identified the study put together by Stree Jagruti, an organization based in Bangalore in 2005, on minimum wages for domestic workers. The report proposes a few guidelines for fixing the minimum wages for domestic workers. The recommendations are reproduced here, as much thought has been given to the specificities of domestic work as a category.

Case studies
Raju is a 19 year old lady from a nearby village of Visakhapatnam. She lives in the terrace of dsnlu girls’ hostel with her family. She does all the work of the hostel which includes cleaning of all three floors, toilets and utensils during lunch. Her husband’s sister accompanies her during the work. Raju has passed her class 10th and is good with languages. She speaks a bit English and is learning Hindi from the north Indian girls in the hostel. She was born and brought up at etikoppaka area. She went for some local school and passed her matriculate. She was asked to leave school because of family problems and then she started working for various households. She was married off at a very tender age of 17 and she gave birth to a male child when she was 18. Her husband goes for day jobs in factories and other places. Her father in law works as a watch guard for the girls’ hostel. The mother in law takes care of the household works.

Lakshmi is a 23 year old lady who gets her earnings doing domestic work. She works for 3 houses per day and manages a 3000 salary. She is married to a man who works as a construction labourer seasonally. They depend on her income most of the time. She has one daughter and she is going to school. She aims at giving her daughter higher education but lack of finance does make her rethink over her decisions. The girl will eventually end up doing domestic chores as her father drinks and the money that comes in is taken by him. Lakshmi has no educational background as such but she remembers attending till class 3 in Polavaram district of Andhra Pradesh.
Kotamma is a domestic worker working at a place called Devipuram in Andhra Pradesh. She lives in Sabbavaram and Devipuram is a shaktipeetha near Sabbavaram. Her job varies from cleaning the ashram to making food for everyone in the ashram. She works till afternoon at the ashram and then resumes to her household activities. She manages to work in a couple of households when she is back in afternoon. She was married off at a very young age which she doesn’t remember. She is approximately 17 years old. Her husband died when she was 16.

CONCLUSION
Out of poverty all the women are doing domestic work in this present urban scenario. The income earned by them is usually stable and constant source of income as the husbands always work for daily wages which are not stable or constant in nature. Most of the women in the current era are doing their domestic jobs and it is found that they could not get a chance to complete their studies and were married off at a very early age. We must motivate them to go for night colleges and study well so that they could opt for a better life. They still need to be educated upon the value of life marriage and education. Widows should be encouraged to remarry and live their life with complete independence. In this society of backwardness along with intellectual minds, we must try to eradicate the evils of society and encourage people who are trying to stand on their feet.…...

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