Social Security of Domestic Workers in India
Domestic Workers in India make up for approximately 4.75 million population of India and remain the most exploited class of workers. Due to urbanisation and migration of people from towns to cities, the demand for domestic workers has witnessed a hype and is only increasing. However, as much as they are required by the urban population, they also face the challenge of lack of economic security which the nature of their employment subjects them to. In the event of any sickness, accident or immediate economic needs, they are left at the mercy of their employers, who mostly give them assistance as a favour.
And the situation is even worse for those employees who continue to work in an abusive or unfavourable environment for fear of losing their only source of income. Considering all these factors, and the number of workers in such sector, it is implicit that the rate of exploitation and their exclusion from basic protection, is an important issue to be paid attention to. The formulation of adequate schemes to bring them within the arena of social security is a goal that cannot be rendered unworthy.
PROBLEMS THAT ARE FACED BY DOMESTIC WORKERS
There are diverse problems that are faced by domestic workers. Ideally, they too are a part of the economic ecosystem of a country and must be awarded economic benefits of that sort. Due to the lack of collective bargaining conjoined with a large supply of such workers bends the array of benefits solely to the employer. This also results in low wages for domestic workers sometimes coupled with long working hours and a deplorable amount of money. Further, domestic workers in India, are often confronted with abuse in the place of work. As casteism is inherent in the Indian Society and is deeply embossed in the mind-set of the people, people from lower strata of society often face discrimination and exploitation.
Such workers are often victims of decadent society. As, most of the lower caste people, are economically and educationally backward, they are unaware of their rights and the remedies that are available to them at their disposal. Further, as they are dependent on the earnings from such a place, they are often left with no choice but to continue living under such exploitative conditions as ultimately they provide them with economic security. Also, even when these people try to attempt to enforce their rights, they often face discrimination and institutional apathy.
Even, recourse to the judiciary for enforcing their rights seems a task hectic as well as less realistic. There’s no denying in the fact that physical abuse faced by such workers happens way too often. Furthermore, live-in workers suffer greater damage as they are dependent on the employer not only financially but also for accommodation and food. Because part-time workers have interaction with the outer world, they are less likely to face such situations.
Domestic workers in India do not face problems like workers in other nations because of the different socio-economic conditions of Indian society.
Caste and Gender discrimination remains a social- evil, that is so deeply entrenched in our society that we often derail towards human rights violations. As most of the domestic workers come from marginalized sections, they are treated with contempt. The employer often feels superior to such workers, and often harsh treatment and discrimination are meted out to the domestic worker. These problems may seem not so serious but they adversely affect the social fabric of the society and imposes deep marks on an individuals’ overall psychology and individuality. Domestic workers also lack any type of social security. Informal sectors don’t provide access to basic social security such as healthcare benefits, unemployment protection, maternity benefits, etc.
As wages for domestic workers are often low or meager, lack of social security paralyzes the whole ecosystem of such domestic workers including their livelihood. As most of them are migrants, their voter cards, ration cards are issued in their home states, thus making it hard for them to take benefits that the government provides. During the times of COVID-19, these workers are one of those people who are hit hard. These are the people who are solely dependent on the employers yet they do not have any work to do nor they are able to do it during the period of lock down. Also, due to security and health issues under such grave and uncertain times, their personal lives are worst affected.
As, it is amply clear that domestic workers suffer from major economic, physical and sexual harassment and have little or no recourse, there’s a dire need of separate legislation and some other sort of mechanism to address their problems. Establishing a welfare board such as done by the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Kerala, that seeks to cater the domestic workers. These boards serve as the first point of contact for registered domestic workers. Also, these boards provide social security and thus serve as a saviour for such informal workers of the society. Further, In the long run, changes in the policies by the government vis-à-vis domestic workers is needed. Minimum wage laws should be brought into the picture and some kind of uniformity must be introduced in such sector.
The hardships and problems faced by the domestic workers can never be contained in seclusion. People from all the strata of society must come together to bring the change. The first and the much-needed step that needs to be taken is dismantling the embedded caste and gender discrimination coupled with other changes.
Social justice to such workers can be brought only when we as an individual come forward to address the issue. Social Justice is achieved when society recognizes rights and duties and works for the basic benefits and cooperation and benefit of the people at every level of society. During such testing times, when we are already in the middle of a pandemic when the future seems a bit uncertain, these workers need us more than ever. Thus, breaking all the shackles of deeply entrenched biases.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This blog has been authored by Shaivya Mishra, who is a 3rd Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.
[PUBLICATION NO. TLG_BLOG_20_9304]