ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Protection for Domestic Workers

Maharashtra takes a major step forward, but more needs to be done in the state and then across the country.

Women and girls are estimated to make up 95% of India’s domestic workers, who are believed to number more than five crores though no hard and reliable estimates are (surprisingly) available. As in the rest of India’s vast informal sector, these workers have to cope with job insecurity, a high vulnerability to ill-health, low wages and exploitation (including sexual) in the workplace. New features of domestic work have worsened conditions in the sector. Increasingly, young girls from tribal areas are being brought to cities by placement agencies that not only financially exploit them but place them in homes where they find themselves extremely vulnerable in alien conditions. (Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) estimate that there are 1,00,000 girls and young women from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal who work as domestic help in Delhi alone.)

Until recently, the lack of legal recognition and the difficulties in organising domestic workers due to the nature of their work have meant that protection and entitlements have been slow in coming. A few NGOs have, however, been working for years on the ground. Collective protests have managed finally to bring pressure on the people’s representatives and the government to at least listen to their demands. Gradually, the State has also started to introduce measures that will provide a measure of protection. In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bihar and Rajasthan, governments have introduced rules and regulations to bring domestic workers under the minimum wage legislation.

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