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Views & Reviews

The Reality of Domestic Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic

By EMN Updated: May 03, 2020 11:26 pm

A domestic worker is a person who is involved in work like cleaning, washing, cooking, taking care of children, etc. They play an important role in the well-being of the family. There are approximately 4.2 million domestic workers in India. They remain part of an informal and unregulated sector, obscured in private homes, not recognised as workers but rather as “informal help”. Out of this population, women constitute about two-thirds of the workforce in this unorganised sector.

The problems faced by the domestic workers:

The nature of work of the domestic workers is not recognised as work by the state, general public and also many of the employers. Their work of cooking, cleaning, dishwashing, babysitting, etc. doesn’t qualify in the definition of organised work. Apart from this, poor bargaining powers with no provision for weekly holidays, maternity leave and health benefits, sexual harassment, caste discrimination and much more has only filled the bucket of sorrow of the domestic workers.

Role to be played by the government:

Increasing cases of sexual harassment, overwork, acquisition of theft, etc, has only jeopardised the workplace of domestic workers. The law should ensure the right to life (Article 21), right to equality (article 14) and right to the freedom of domestic workers. India by far has only two laws for domestic workers: The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008(UWSSA) and the Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace Act 2013. But seeing the increasing number of issues and challenges of domestic workers, these two laws are meagre. India should ratify the ILO’s 189th convention known as the ‘convention of domestic workers’.

The state should amend the existing labour laws to ensure domestic workers enjoy all the labour rights other workers do. Include them in the schedule of employment. How long will they wait for their recognition in the state. Every household has a domestic worker then why the delay in giving their dignity and recognition. Policymakers should also deliberate on bringing proper legislation that aims to improve social and economic conditions of people involved in this informal and unorganised work.

Role of the society at large:

The society too needs to change their behavioural aspects and habitual negligence towards domestic workers. Sympathy and empathy should be there for this vulnerable section of society.

Working for their rights and empowerment through skill training I have seen domestic workers take so much pride in their work and love the children they care for.” Their office is their employers home. Treat them as workers not as helper or slave.

Let us show them the reciprocity of love and care that they show us through their work, feel the dignity of work they do for their living. If we cannot bring the change single-handedly, at least be the catalyst to change.

Covid-19 has brought fear among the domestic workers because there has been no work for many days, salaries are not paid, they are not taken care of, they were not helped, when many of the employers have asked them to stop reporting to work ever since the risk of the Covid-19 spread. The issue of whether the forced holiday is going to affect their pay is also playing on the minds of the domestic workers. Let us not forget the employers who have shown their love during the pandemic, when the domestic workers expressed their difficulties, some employers have taken risks to help them. I salute those employers. If all employers could show such love and recognise their services for our homes I think there is no need of any law.

Therefore we urge employers to give what belongs to them, that is paid leave. To include them in the food relief. If we see here in Nagaland specially Dimapur there are many domestic workers who re-migrated. We ask the State Government to request the employers not to cut their pay which is the only income to sustain their family. Let be considerate in recognising their services for our homes, I am sure we have realised how difficult it is to maintain our homes without their presence. Because when we go out for our work they are the ones who manage everything. Therefore let us show our extra love and recognise them as workers and pay what belongs to them.

Sr. Pramila
State Coordiantor
NDWM- Nagaland Region

By EMN Updated: May 03, 2020 11:26:44 pm