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Girl Children in the Care Economy: Domestics in West Bengal

Girl Children in the Care Economy: Domestics in West Bengal

Work participation rates among women are low in West Bengal, below the national average; but the state has the highest incidence of working girl children in the urban areas. Based mainly on secondary data, the analysis here suggests that the relatively high prevalence of domestic service and the tradition of inducting girl children into it have led to this trend. A complex interaction of historical, cultural and social practices, together with economic factors, determine women's work in general and that of girl children in particular. A significant factor in this context is the increasing urban affluence in the state led by the growth of the service sector in the recent years.

SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 29, 200893Girl Children in the Care Economy: Domestics in West BengalDeepita Chakravarty, Ishita ChakravartyWork participation rates among women are low in West Bengal, below the national average; but the state has the highest incidence of working girl children in the urban areas. Based mainly on secondary data, the analysis here suggests that the relatively high prevalence of domestic service and the tradition of inducting girl children into it have led to this trend. A complex interaction of historical, cultural and social practices, together with economic factors, determine women’s work in general and that of girl children in particular. A significant factor in this context is the increasing urban affluence in the state led by the growth of the service sector in the recent years. We are grateful to N Krishnaji, Bikash Chakravarty and G Vijaya Kumar for their comments. This paper has been presented at the Indian Society for Labour Economics conference in December 2007 at Hyderabad and then again at a seminar at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad, in February 2008.Deepita Chakravarty ( is at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad and Ishita Chakravarty ( teaches history at the Vidyasagar College, Kolkata and is editor of a Bangla little magazineKhnoj Ekhon. Female work participation rates (WPR) vary significantly over the different states in India. Across nations the varia-tions in these rates are often explained by the diverse patternsof development and of per capita income. However, the pattern of women’s work participation in Indian states cannot be explained by levels of per capita income. The Indian pattern depends much on women’s work in agriculture; even today more than 80 per cent of Indian women workers are engaged in this sector. Labour-intensive techniques associated with certain crops underlie the demand for female labour; occupational segregation of agricultural tasks of weeding, rice transplanting and some harvest operations is also a relevant factor [Duvvury 1989; Harris-White 2005]. 1 IntroductionWhile agricultural work explains inter-state variation of women’s work participation in India to a reasonable extent, West Bengal (WB) is a striking exception. A predominantly rice cultivating state with relatively poor mechanisation, WB has one of the lowest WPRs for women among the 15 major states of the country. This has historical roots. However, the position of WB is different in the female workforce participation in the urban areas. The rank-ing ofWB is very high if one looks at theWPRs of the urban girl children in the age group of five to 14 years. It is interesting to note that among girl children, the WPR is much lower in the rural parts. It needs to be mentioned here that theWPR we are talking about necessarily refers to the definition of work as in the System of National Accounts (SNA). A rich tradition of research, however, points out that the extendedSNA suggests a much higherWPR for both women and girl children in the subsistence as well as in the “care economy” [for example, Sen and Sen 1985; Burra 2006]. It is especially true in rural areas.Where do these urban girl children work inWB and what explains their high incidence when the older women are much lessseen in paid work in the state compared to many other states in India? Is there a segmented labour market both by age and gender perpetuated over the years to cater to the market in this state? This paper revolves around these issues. Let us note herethattheprevalence of girl child workers in urban WB is con-spicuously missing in the existing discourse on child labour. The high incidence of girl children working in the match indus-try of Tamil Nadu, the bidi industry in Andhra Pradesh (AP), the carpetindustry in Jammu and Kashmir, and in gem polishing in Jaipur, on the contrary, are well recognised [for example, Kak 2004; Burra 2006].
SPECIAL ARTICLEnovember 29, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly94While poverty is likely to be a necessary reason for girl children working in large numbers in the urban areas of WB, it cannot be a sufficient one [see the discussions in Weiner 1991; Burra 2006 and Dreze and Sen 2002]. The persistence of girl child labour in a period when work opportunities for adult women are not widen-ing inWB is indeed paradoxical. We accept that the high inci-dence of urban girl children working out for wages is driven by poverty. Our attempt here is to look at the complex interaction of historic, cultural and social practices together with economic factors determining the conditions of the labour market for women and girls. One important factor in this context is the increasing urban affluence in the state of WB led by the service sector growth in the recent years. This study is based on secondary data, mainly the decennial population census and the reports of the National Sample Survey (NSS) on employment and unemployment. While the census gives the absolute employment figures, the NSS provides estimates of the work participation rates. However, the definitions used in the two sources are different. Thus, while these two sets of data are not strictly comparable, separately they provide important insights. We have considered only “main workers” in the case of the census and both “usual” and “usual principal” status workers in the case of theNSS. As neither of these sources provides infor-mation on yearly employment, a time series analysis could not be attempted. Also, this study does not attempt to explain variations across the states although it highlights certain features of WB in a comparative context. The paper is organised in four sections. Section 2 locates the areas of concentration of urban women and girl children workers. The next, section 3, discusses the historical emergence of a gender-based labour market in urban Bengal. This is followed by a close look at the demand and supply factors in section 4, which might have led to the high concentration of urban women and girl children in domestic service in the state. 2 The Location of Paid Work A look at the 2001 and the 1991 Census data (Table 1) suggests two important facts about work participation among girl children in the urban areas of the major states of India. First, it is the highest in West Bengal in 2001. Interestingly, even in 2001,WB continues to lag behind other major states in respect of the WPR of adult women. Secondly, in 1991WB was at the fourth position with regard to girl children’sWPR in the urban areas of all states. All the three states above WB exhibit a clear decline in girl children’s WPR in 2001 over 1991.WB, however, shows a significant increase in the incidence of girl children working. Even more strikingisthe fact that around 2 per cent of the urban girl childrenintheage group of five to nine years work outside their homes inWB, while in the other states of the country1 children are scarcely reported to work for wages at this tender age (Table 2). The data refer to the latest round of the NSS (2004-05), and show that inWB the WPR for girls in this age group is 20 per thousand, four times the WPR for boys in the same age group.2 Research on women’s work has attempted to analyse why the labour market is segregated in a gendered fashion [for example, Mitchell 1971; Walby 1990, 1997]. These studies have shown how the interplay of capitalism and patriarchy leads women and men to perform different economic roles in society. This segregation on the basis of gender or the sex-typing of work plays an important role both from the demand and supply sides in determining the work profiles of women and girl children. To understand this in the case of urban WB, we first need to go beyond the aggregative figures. While the NSS data are avail-able till 2004-05, they are not of much help in this regard for two reasons: first, the NSS reports the disaggregated WPRs only in terms of the standard nine industry classification; and secondly, even that is not available in terms of the different age groups. On the other hand, the census gives a more detailed breakdown in terms of divisions of work with respect to different age groups.Table 1: WPRs of Urban Females (All) and Girl Children (5 to 14 years) in 15 Major States (1991 and 2001; in %)States 19912001 FWPR GC (5-14) WPR FWPR GC (5-14) WPRHimachal Pradesh 11.10 (4) 0.73 (9) 12.99 (3) 0.74 (8)Punjab 4.31 (13) 0.32 (15) 8.49 (9) 0.90 (5)Haryana 4.65 (12) 0.35 (14) 7.66 (10) 0.49 (13)Rajasthan 5.36 (11) 0.75 (8) 6.51 (13) 0.63 (10)Uttar Pradesh 3.75 (15) 0.55 (10) 4.54 (15) 0.77 (6)Bihar 4.30 (14) 0.53 (12) 4.70 (14) 0.65 (9)West Bengal 5.79(10) 1.17 (4) 9.21 (7) 1.77 (1)Orissa 7.03 (8) 1.12 (5) 7.30 (11) 0.76 (7)Madhya Pradesh 8.82 (7) 0.94 (6) 8.70 (8) 0.62 (11)Gujarat 6.03 (9) 0.54 (11) 7.23 (12) 0.65 (9)Maharashtra 10.37 (6) 0.80 (7) 10.47 (6) 0.59 (12)Andhra Pradesh 11.09 (5) 2.02 (2) 10.52 (5) 1.59 (4)Karnataka 11.96 (1) 2.19 (1) 13.78 (2) 1.64 (3)Kerala 11.30 (3) 0.40 (13) 10.71 (4) 0.23 (14)Tamil Nadu 11.78 (2) 1.88 (3) 16.18 (1) 1.69 (2)India Female work participation rate or FWPR refers to the worker population ratio (for all age group women) per 100 women population. Similarly, girl children work participation rate (GCWPR) refers to the worker population ratio per 100 girl children (5 to 14).(2) Only main workers have been considered.(3) Ranks of different states according to FWPR and GCWPR are given in the parenthesis.Source: Calculated from the population Census, 1991 and 2001.Table 2: WPRs of Urban Girls and Boys in the 15 Major States according to Usual Status (2004-05, per thousand population)States Ages (5 to 9) Ages (10 to 14) All Age Groups GirlsBoysGirlsBoysWomenMenHimachal Pradesh 0 0 19 0 241 619Punjab 0 0 3 37133 572Haryana 001020132511Rajasthan 1 2 39 83 182 508Uttar Pradesh 8 7 61 100 117 524Bihar 0 0 8 5465 452West Bengal 20 5 67 91 155 595Orissa 0 0 2443148 504Madhya Pradesh 0 0 30 31 154 525Gujarat 0 5 26 38151 578Maharashtra 0 0 1023190 560Andhra Pradesh 0 1 54 62 224 560Karnataka 0 0 1723181 576Kerala 0 0 7 6 200 547Tamil Nadu 0 0 33 24 241 593India 3 2 3348166 549Source: NSS, Report No 515, Central Statistical Organisation, government of India.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 29, 200895These divisions refer to the types of work performed within different industrial categories such as professional, clerical or manual jobs. Unfortunately, the 2001 Census information in this regard is still not available. Tables 3 and 4 depict the percentage concentration of women and girl children respectively in differ-ent divisions of work in urban WB in the 1991 Census. Table 3 shows a relatively higher concentration of urban women workers inWB in four areas: (a) production related works (div 7-8-9), (b) professional, technical and related work (div 0-1), (c) domestic service (div 53 – a sub group of service works, div 5), and (d) clerical jobs (div 3). The importance of all the above- mentioned divisions hold true for the other states except for division 53. However, if we exclude domestic services (group 53) from the broad category of manual services (div 5), the percentage concen-tration of women workers becomes more or less similar over all the states. The high percentage share of domestic service (20 per cent) inWB makes the real difference. Domestic service being one of the most important areas of women’s work in urban WB, more than half (57 per cent) of the working girls are employed in this sector (Table 4).3 In most other major states, small girls in maximum numbers are found in production related work.4 Tables 3 and 4 together suggest a clear predominance of domestic service in the work profile of women and girls inWB in the early 1990s. This trend seems to be continuing in recent years as well. A comparison of the 1991 and the 2001 census data indi-cates that the largest increase in working girl children has taken place in the services sector, most likely in domestic service. This is particularly true for girls aged between five and nine years, who can only be engaged in work that requires hardly any skills. In fact, a study (2006) conducted by Save the Children on child domestics in Kolkata and three other relatively more urbanised districts ofWB suggests a significant predominance of small girls in domestic service. The study has also pointed out how girl children domestics are being subject to routine abuse in urban middle class homes. More on this issue later. We focus here on two issues: first, understand how domestic service became dominant in women’s work in urban WB and then probe into the intriguing phenomenon of the high incidence of girl children domestics in the state. We specifically look at how girl children are emerging as probable substitutes for adult women in domestic service. 3 Gender Segregation of WorkA brief survey of the available literature on women’s work in colonial Bengal brings out two important points. First, the rate of women’s participation in the workforce was traditionally muchlower than in other parts of the country according to the censuses in the colonial period. Second, the avenues of women’s work in Bengal shrank between 1881 and 1931 as a result of the introduction of the “limited version” of modernisation in industry [Banerjee 1989; Mukherjee 1995]. Unlike other parts of the country, cultivation absorbed only a small section of women in colonial Bengal. Traditional household industries and modern industries such as the jute, tea and coal mining were the main employers of women. As a result of changes in production processes and the decline of traditional crafts, women lost their household jobs. New factory laws barred women from the coal mines. The jute industry, which had nearly 20 per cent women among labour by the turn of the 19th century, started employing single male upcountry migrants at the cost of local women and men workers [Samita Sen 1999a]. The only area where women replaced men in Bengal towards the closing decades of colonial rule was domestic service. Domestic service was also the only area in the modern services sector of work that experienced a considerable expansion during the same period [Banerjee 1989].A contextual historical detail: Industrialisation in England in the late 18th century opened up new avenues of work for women in industries and services. Young unmarried women moved from rural areas to cities to work in middle class homes. These migrants viewed domestic service as a temporary vocation, a preparatory phase for becoming future housewives themselves [Freedman 2002]. Table 3: Percentage Distribution of Urban Women Workers (All Ages) in Different Divisions of Work in the 15 Major States (1991)States Div 0 to 1 Div 2 Div 3 Div 4 Div 5 Div 53 Div 6 Div Div Excluding7-8-9X 53 Himachal Pradesh 44.69 1.29 22.13 3.80 8.64 3.37 0.33 13.10 2.64Punjab 51.950.7914.474.227.672.450.3115.982.16Haryana 51.511.1512.763.538.052.650.4817.091.97Rajasthan 32.81 1.28 6.065.8110.49 1.180.8937.98 3.51Uttar Pradesh 29.72 0.87 6.15 7.88 9.66 2.81 0.74 35.69 6.48Bihar 38.061.326.007.927.567.190.5728.803.10West Bengal 25.74 1.06 11.48 5.77 5.83 19.70 0.53 27.93 1.91Orissa Pradesh 22.87 1.34 7.16 7.97 6.90 4.60 1.25 44.43 3.49Gujarat 28.13 1.1411.18 8.917.546.292.04 32.17 1.14Maharashtra 21.951.8315.979.726.319.370.8932.531.43Andhra Pradesh 18.29 0.80 6.73 11.78 10.32 6.11 0.92 43.61 1.44Karnataka 18.711.1810.528.675.306.891.2945.791.66Kerala 24.581.6713.315.269.794.811.7238.090.77Tamil Nadu 18.58 1.25 9.23 7.84 7.57 3.88 4.96 45.93 0.76(a) Only the main workers have been considered.(b) The different divisional codes refer to: (0-1): Professional, technical and related workers, (2): administrative, executive and managerial workers, (3): clerical workers, (4): sales workers, (5): service workers, (6): farmers, etc, (7-8-9): production related workers and labourers, (X): workers not classified by occupations.Source: Population Census, 1991Table 4: Percentage Distribution of Urban Girl Children (5-14) Workers in Different Divisions of Work in 15 Major States(1991)States Div 0 to 1 Div 2 Div 3 Div 4 Div 5 Div 53 Div 6 Div Div Excluding7-8-9X 53 Himachal Pradesh 2.36 0.00 3.03 0.67 4.37 62.63 0.00 22.90 4.04Punjab 2.380.000.9713.226.8817.530.7055.153.17Haryana 2.640.440.8812.92 6.0215.27 4.26 54.77 2.79Rajasthan 1.480.150.374.343.413.024.2779.423.53Uttar Pradesh 1.76 0.22 0.35 5.78 4.69 3.79 0.77 74.05 8.60Bihar 2.360.410.779.154.9140.540.6437.323.89West Bengal 0.83 0.12 0.24 1.81 4.93 56.80 0.20 33.43 1.63Orissa 1.460.280.407.362.9926.061.9357.022.81MadhyaPradesh 1.13 0.19 0.19 5.66 2.77 10.732.4073.043.89Gujarat 1.650.090.626.392.9916.352.6966.982.25Maharashtra Pradesh 0.41 0.15 0.13 5.55 8.28 15.38 1.34 67.74 1.01Karnataka 0.520.140.253.493.5922.211.4466.731.63Kerala 1.980.291.212.2430.2335.270.7725.462.53Tamil Nadu 0.50 0.14 0.31 3.65 2.68 5.33 1.49 84.81 1.01Same as for Table 3.Source: Population Census, 1991.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 29, 200897employment opportunities leads women to crowd in the domestic service then how is it that small girls can compete with adult women in this work? An age group wise distribution of urban female domestics (see the figure, p 96) shows that girl children (5to 14) account for around 14 per cent among workers in this category, which, in fact, is the second highest over all age groups.5In order to understand the ability of girl children to compete with adult women in domestic service we have chosen to narrow down our period of enquiry to 1993-94 to 2004-05. This 10-year period is not only the recent, most for which we have published data on several counts but also is characterised by large-scale structural change in the Indian economy. This is the time of the services sector boom in the country in general and in a few states in particular.WB showed more than a 9 per cent rate of growth per annum in the gross domestic product from services during 1993-94 to 2003-04 [Chakravarty 2006], which is the highest among all states as well. Further, while girl children’s work par-ticipation rates in urban WB was increasing both in absolute and relative terms over a long period of time, the early 2000s were the first years whenWB ranked first in this regard both according to the census and the NSS data. In order to contextualise the problem we need to pay some more attention to the labour market for urban women inWB. Urban Women and Labour Market Recent research highlights an increasing participation of urban women in the low paid unorganised sector jobs, such as domestic service, in the country as a whole [Unni and Raveendran 2007]. A close look at women’sWPR in urbanWB suggests (Tables 5a and 5b) a significant increase in the area of commu-nity services in the prin-cipal status category and a marginal decline by the usual status(princi-pal + subsidiary). Let us now try to see whether this increase by the principal status has mainly taken place in low paid jobs in the community services.For urban females in WB while regular em-ployment by principal status has in general decreased in 2004-05, the increase has taken place in casual employ-ment when compared to 1993-94.6 As the com-munity services sector employment for urban women is overwhel-mingly high inWB it is expected that the same trend of decreasing regular employment and increasing casual employment prevails in this category as well. Further, the West Bengal Human Development Report (WBHDR) of 2004 points out a distress movement of workers towards the service sector, a result of decreases in employment in agriculture and industry duringthe1990s.Considering these trends together, it may be concluded that the growth of service sector employment of urban women byprincipal statusis likely to have taken place in the low paid casual jobs in the unorganisedsector.Ourearlier analysis suggests a clear predominance of domestic service in urban women’s jobs in the unorganised sector inWB. As these jobs are among the lowest paid ones,itislikelythattheabovemen-tioned increase has taken place in this category in a majorway. So, the increase in the employ-ment opportunities for urban women in the community services is not likely to be di-rectly related to the pheno-menal growth of services out-put in the state during this time.7 But it needs to be men-tioned here that some of the output increase in the services sector in the state actually re-flects the increased wages of the public sector workers as a result of the Fifth Pay Commis-sion awards and some increase in the information technology (IT) enabled services and related activities in and around the metropolis (WBHDR 2004).We will turn to this issue while discussing the demand side factors. As WPR in terms of the nine industry classification for different age groups is not reported by the NSS, we have to satisfy ourselves with aggregative figures in the case of girl children’s work. Tables 6a and 6b suggest a remarkable decrease of WPR for the age group of 10 to 14 during the period 1993-94 to 2004-05. It is unlikely that this decline has taken place as a result of policy in-tervention because the WPR of girl children in the lowest age group (five to nine) has in fact increased significantly during the same period. Tables 6a and 6b also show a substantial increase in the WPR of women in the later age groups – from 25 to 29 years. There is a possibility that the significant increase in the WPR in the age group of 15 to 19 is just a shift from the earlier age group of 10 to 14 years. It is also possible that as a result of the increase in the older women’s WPR, the girls in younger age group of 10 to 14 are forced to withdraw from paid work outside home. Arguably girl children in the age group of 10 to 14 are expected to be able to take care of household subsistence work in the absence of the mother while younger girls of five to nine are not so indispensable at home. How-ever, only primary data can confirm this conjecture. Even if the decline in the number of girl child labour (10 to 14) has been due to policy intervention, it is more likely to have taken place in the visible areas of operation such as production units in Table 5a: Per 1,000 Distribution of Working Urban Women and Men in the Usual Status (Principal Status and Subsidiary Status Taken Together) by Broad Industry Division10 in WB (1993-94 and 2004-05)Industry 1993-942004-05 FemaleMaleFemaleMaleAgriculture 86443127Manufacturing 305302354257Community services, etc 501 212 496 165Trade 49 206 75270Transport 19986129Construction 1561975Finance 18422159All 143 550 155 595Source: NSS, Report Nos 409 and 515 (Part I).Table 5b: Per 1,000 Distribution of Usually Working Urban Women and Men in the Principal Status by Broad Industry Division in WB(1993-94 and 2004-05)Industry 1993-942004-05 Female Male FemaleMaleAgriculture 37431227Manufacturing 266 305280 260Community services, etc 571 205 582 160Trade 53 206 70270Transport 22993131Construction 19631375Finance 21423161All 104 538 103 583Source: Same as above.Table 6a: WPRs of Urban Girls (per 1,000 population) by Usual Status (Principal Status and Subsidiary Status Taken Together) in WB (1993-94 and 2004-05)Age Group 1993-94 2004-055 to 9 11 2010 to14 88 6715 to 19 113 16020 to 24 166 25625 to 29 189 220All 143155Source: Same as above.Table 6b: WPRs of Urban Girls (Per 1,000 Population) by Usual Principal Status in WB(1993-94 and 2004-05)Age Group 1993-94 2004-055 to 9 2 510 to14 63 4715 to 19 82 12420 to 24 100 11225 to 29 141 152All 104103Source: Same as above.


SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 29, 200899in the number of families per thousand in the highest consump-tion expenditure class in India in general and inWB in particular. While in 1999-2000 the number of richest families per thousand in urbanWB was lower than the national average, in 2004-05 it has surpassed the all India figure and stands at the fifth position together with Tamil Nadu.12 The high rate of growth of services in the state of WB in the recent years is likely to be a cause of increase in affluence in the urban areas of the state. It is likely that the demand for manual services such as domestic help not only depends on the increase in urban affluence but also on the incidence of work participation among upper class women outside home. For some insights we present some NSS data in Table 8. West Bengal shows the third highest WPR among women in the highest expenditure class of Rs 2,540 and above among the major states in India. This is much above the national average. Clearly these working women are the most likely employers of house maids.13 Tables 7 and 8 show that Punjab and Kerala are the two states which not only have many more families per thou-sand in the highest con-sumption expenditure class compared toWB but also the only two states showing higherWPRs for women in the richest class compared toWB. However, the different outcomes in terms of women’s labour market participation in these states compared to WB can be explained only with reference to the specificities of Punjab and Kerala. It may not be out of context to mention here that Table 8 also shows a much higherWPR for the poorest urban women inWB than that for many other states in India. As a matter of fact this is true for the lowest three MPCEs. The supply of domestic servants is likely to come from these classes mainly. Finally, we turn to the question of preference for girl child domestics in the urban areas of WB where finding a girl child out of school and ready to work is far easier compared to many other states in India, especially in Kerala. TheNSS data show that the employment of small girls (five to nine) (both by the usual and the principal status categories) has increased in 2004-05 over 1993-94 in urban WB. This is an indication that small girls’ employment as domestics is gaining importance, possibly as live-in domestics. Again, this increase has been recorded only in the case ofWB. Employing a girl child as a live-in domestic is a less costly affair than employing an adult woman. It is also much easier to control her and to make her do all sorts of jobs. If the servant needs to be at home when the adults are away during the daytime many other considerations do matter. The girl child live-in domestic is evidently more reliable than an adult especially in the context of increasing cases of reported involvement of adult domestics in theft and other crimes in em-ployers’ households. Additionally the live-in girl child domestic can even perform the role of a companion to the employer’s child in a nuclear home, especially when both parents are working. However, these are only conjectures to be confirmed by primary surveys.The trend of both parents going out for work is increasing among the richer classes in urban India in recent years. Table 8 suggests a significantly high work participation of urban women in the richest class of the state of WB. Surveys by Save the Children (2004, 2006) among the live-in child domestics men-tioned earlier reveal that most of these workers were females who started working at the age of 8 to 12. Almost all of them are either illiterate or have gone to school cursorily. Most of them received monitory remuneration below Rs 200 and up to maxi-mum of Rs 500 per month and they work approximately 12 to 18 hours a day attending to all sorts of chores such as caring for babies/infants, attending to the elderly, cleaning, washing and sometimes cooking as well. They work for long hours at a stretch with no rest. Abuse of Girl DomesticsThe situation seems to be even graver when we consider how girl children domestics are being routinely subject to abuse in middleclass homes in urban WB. Located far away from home in an unfamiliar atmosphere the live-in girl children domestics are at the complete mercy of the employers. Contrary to the popular image (strengthened by stereotyped portrayals in literature and in the visual media) of the benevolent Bengali middle class employer, newspapers often carry reports of extreme abuse of child domestics. In the last one year leading Bangla dailies reported at least four cases where educated middle class employers in posh areas of the metropolis were involved in torturing girl children domestics. Tortures ranged from beating, starvation, seclusion, causing severe burn injuries to sexual abuse. One 15-year-old domestic was reported to have committed suicide (Dainik Statesman, March 7, 2007). Two other 11-year olds survived by fleeing (Bartaman,May 19, 2007 and Anandabazar Patrika, February 25, 2008). However, it needs to be remembered that newspapers usually report only those cases which come to the police. And that only a small fraction of the cases of abuse of girl children domestics comes to the police is suggested by Save the Children (2006), which reports that 68 per cent of the child domestic workers surveyed in West Bengal had faced physical abuse, 46 per cent had faced severe abuse that had led to injuries, and 20 per cent had been sexually abused.To conclude, the highest incidence of urban girl children work-ing for wages in West Bengal puts a question mark on the much talked about development experience of the state in the recent years. We have tried to argue how segregation of a typical market both by gender and age helps perpetuate girl children’s paid work in the context of a state failure in different developmental direc-tions. No serious attempt has been made in the state to abolish Table 8: Per 1,000 WPR for Urban Women according to the Highest and Lowest Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure Classes for the Major States of India(2004-05)States Per 1,000 Worker Population Ratio Lowest Highest All Classes MPCE Class MPCE Class Himachal Pradesh 0 238 241Punjab 20290133Haryana 141128132Rajasthan 170214182Uttar Pradesh 142 117 117Bihar 108 0 65West Bengal 256 266 155Orissa 206251148Madhya Pradesh 165 236 154Gujarat 32781151Maharashtra 208 248 190Andhra Pradesh 269 179 224Karnataka 191 146 181Kerala 117 301 200Tamil Nadu 326 171 241India 187 203 166Source: NSS, Report No 515 (part I).

42(3), pp 196-99. Walby, S (1990): Theorising Patriarchy, Blackwell, Oxford.

– (1997): Gender Transformations, Routledge, London.

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