Rights for Domestic Workers


Coinciding with the World Day for Social Justice on 20 February, the Employment and Social Protection Task Team, led by ILO, launched joint advocacy and communication on the theme of Rights for Domestic Workers in February 2014. The theme stimulated public debate on the rights and equality issues of domestic workers including safety, working conditions, wages, social protection, employer’s expectations and employer-employee relationships with a view to collectively promote decent work for domestic workers. 

 

ABOUT DOMESTIC WORKERS


UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

Rights for Domestic Workers

More women in India are receiving an education than ever before and the country has recorded consistent economic growth. Despite this, India continues to have one of lowest rates of female workforce participation in the world.


Close to 54 percent of working age women between the ages of 15 to 59 are not available for work because of household responsibilities or domestic work. In addition, they undertake tasks such as fetching wood and water which goes towards the care and sustenance of their family. Such work is called many things – unpaid care work, reproductive work, social care functions and so on.


Hired domestic workers ease the burden of individual households by undertaking household chores in return for remuneration. The tasks include the care of children and the elderly, cooking, driving, cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands and taking care of household pets, particularly in urban areas. However, despite the benefits this work brings to individual households, domestic workers are often not recognized as workers by society.


Tasks performed by them are not recognized as ‘work’. Domestic workers in India continue to struggle for visibility and recognition. While several legislations such as the Unorganized Social Security Act, 2008, Sexual Harassment against Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Minimum Wages Schedules notified in various states refer to domestic workers, there remains an absence of comprehensive, uniformly applicable, national legislation that guarantees fair terms of employment and decent working conditions. Domestic workers should however be guaranteed the same terms of employment as enjoyed by other workers.


Understanding domestic work

Rights for Domestic Workers

Unlike other forms of labour market activity, domestic work takes place in an unconventional place of work, i.e. the household. Gaining public acceptance of a household as a place of work is a challenge. Implementation of labour laws such as minimum wages and regularized work hours, which are essential elements of any kind of work, also remain a challenge. Such regulation is complex because the nature of domestic work is unique compared to other forms of work. The sector lacks effective means to regulate working conditions, for example, through streamlined job descriptions which could be offered through standard contracts. Furthermore, unlike work in a formal setting, domestic work is not guided by clear and agreed production or output goals. Enforcing labour laws remains a significant bottleneck. This is because privacy norms do not bode well with the idea of labour inspectors entering private households and ensuring regulations.

 
Policymakers, legislative bodies and people need to recognize the existence of an employment relationship in domestic work. Such a view would see domestic workers as not just “helpers” who are “part of the family” but as employed workers entitled to the rights and dignity that employment brings with it.

 

INVISIBLE AND UNRECOGNIZED BUT CRUCIAL FOR WOMEN’S LIVELIHOODS

At present, domestic work stands as a readily-available livelihood option for millions of women. While a large number of women are engaged in this sector, it is important to look at the working conditions that exist in this sector. Fixing fair, minimum wages, providing weekly days off and paid annual leaves, protecting from physical and sexual abuse and ensuring social security, are key issues that need to be addressed by the government nationally, and across India’s states.

 

LAW AND ORDER VERSUS RIGHTS-BASED APPROACHES

Rights for Domestic Workers - Graph Copyright The Wall Street Journal

Physical and sexual abuse against domestic workers is often reported in the media. Various studies and reports also reveal that domestic workers are subjected to discrimination on grounds of religion, caste and ethnicity. Often, these challenges are placed in a law and order framework instead of a labour rights framework. Regulating domestic work through legislation is the only way to address abuses against domestic workers. Data released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in February 2014, published in response to a question tabled in the upper house of Parliament, track reports of violence against domestic helpers between 2010 and 2012. Overall, in India’s 28 states and 7 union territories, there were 3,564 cases of alleged violence against domestic workers reported in 2012, up slightly from 3,517 in 2011 and 3,422 in 2010.

 

Read the press release 

 

Read the news article 

 

 


STATES PROTECTION FOR DOMESTIC WORKERS

Factsheet: Source Press Information Bureau [PIB]

The state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have taken several steps to improve the working conditions of domestic workers and to provide access to social security schemes. Seven states including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, and Rajasthan have introduced minimum wages for domestic workers. The state governments of Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu have also constituted Welfare Boards for domestic workers who are able to avail of welfare benefits by registering with these Boards. However, despite these efforts, a large majority of domestic workers remain outside the purview of labour laws even today. 

 

ADDRESSING GENDER INEQUALITY THROUGH EQUALITY OF DOMESTIC WORK

Rights for Domestic Workers

Domestic work has enabled many women to enter the labour market and benefit from economic autonomy. However, this has not translated into gender equality. Worldwide, household responsibilities and unpaid care work continue to pose significant barriers to women’s labour market participation. On many occasions, ILO has argued the need to change the idea that care-giving is a private domestic responsibility unique to women.


A greater sense of social co-responsibility must be developed- first towards a redistribution of responsibilities between households, the market and the state, that is a shift toward society as a whole assuming responsibility for the process of reproducing the labour force; and second, towards redistributing reproductive work/unpaid care work between men and women, in line with the change that has already taken place regarding productive (paid) work.


In order to leave behind the assumption that women alone must balance productive work with family and care responsibilities, we must foster alternative models of maternity, paternity and masculinity. Hence, what is needed is a reconfiguration of the financing of ‘care’ from the current model that relies heavily on the households, the women and the domestic workers, to the state. This can be done through measures such as making available good quality full-day child care especially for the low income population and facilitating the development of effective policies to enable workers to meet demands of unpaid work (for example, leave policies and working time policies).

The large supply of domestic workers in India has meant a meant a shift of care responsibilities from women in the households to hired domestic workers who are a predominantly female and largely invisible. This, in itself, did not challenge broader structural gender inequality. Hence, ILO’s demands for decent work for domestic workers are two pronged- first and foremost, it calls for recognition of the rights of domestic workers for fair terms of employment that are no less favourable than those of other workers; secondly, it calls for the active participation of the state and the recognition of the existence of structural inequality that is perpetuated by not recognizing the sheer weight of ‘care work’.

 

Events


UN Public Lecture by Jayati Ghosh on 1 March 2014

 

United Nations Public Lecture by Dr. Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University 

Delivering the second United Nations Public Lecture, Dr. Jayati Ghosh called on India to ratify the ILO Domestic Workers Convention No. 189 that guarantees the fundamental rights of domestic workers to decent and secure work. In her lecture titled ‘The Invisible Workers: Rights, Justice and Dignity for Domestic Workers’, Dr. Ghosh said that no society can survive without the massive contribution domestic work makes to national income. 

Inspiring Change


 

Panel Discussion on ‘Work like any other? Accounting for Domestic Work in India’ 

Bringing together eminent speakers from the ILO, Bharti Birla, the All India Trade Union Congress, the Domestic Workers Forum, the National Platform for comprehensive legislation for Domestic Workers and the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, the panel discussion highlighted the rights and benefits for domestic workers, the role of legislation, the role of placement agencies and expectations from employers of domestic workers. 

 

Resources


BROCHURE

Brochure: Decent work for domestic workers

 

Work Like Any Other, Work Like No Other 

From low wages to long working hours, from absence of social security to no entitlements, this brochure prepared by the Employment and Social Protection Task Team highlights issues that domestic workers face in India.

 

Reports

Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A generation at risk

 

Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A generation at risk 

The study examines the continuing job crisis affecting young people in many parts of the world. It provides updated statistics on global and regional youth unemployment rates and presents ILO policy recommendations to curb the current trends.

Domestic Workers Across The World

 

Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection 

The publication outlines the magnitude of domestic work, a sector often invisible behind the doors of private households and unprotected by national legislation. It presents national statistics and new global and regional estimates on the number of domestic workers. The publication also examines the extent of inclusion or exclusion of domestic workers from key working conditions laws.

Resource guide on domestic workers

 

Resource guide on domestic workers 

A guide on domestic work, which is a global phenomenon perpetuating hierarchies based on race, ethnicity, indigenous status, caste and nationality.

Achieving Decent Work for Domestic Workers

 

Achieving Decent Work for Domestic Workers 

The adoption by the International Labour Conference, on 16 June 2011, of ILO Convention No. 189 and Recommendation No. 201 on decent work for domestic workers, was a historic step in the struggle for social justice worldwide. This manual aims to promote ILO convention no. 189, and thus, build domestic workers’ power.

Report on the Working of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948

 

Report on the Working of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 

The annual report of the Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment in 2010 focuses on the implementation of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

FAQ: Decent Work for Domestic Workers

 

FAQs on Decent Work for Domestic Workers

This note provides information on the steps taken by the Government of India in promoting decent work for domestic workers, the policy and regulatory measures required, statistics on domestic workers and information on the care economy. 

Videos

Oscar Fernandes, Minister for Labour and Employment, Government of India 

Decent Work for Domestic Workers
Oscar Fernandes, Minister for Labour and Employment, Government of India on the draft national policy for domestic workers and the need to ensure social security benefits to this segment of the workforce.

UN Public Lecture by Jayati Ghosh on 1 March 2014

 

Highlights of the UN Public Lecture  

Key highlights from the UN Public Lecture by Dr. Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University on ‘The Invisible Workers: Rights, Justice and Dignity for Domestic Workers’.

UN Public Lecture by Jayati Ghosh on 1 March 2014

 

United Nations Public Lecture by Dr. Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University 

Delivering the second United Nations Public Lecture, Dr. Jayati Ghosh called on India to ratify the ILO Domestic Workers Convention No. 189 that guarantees the fundamental rights of domestic workers to decent and secure work. In her lecture titled ‘The Invisible Workers: Rights, Justice and Dignity for Domestic Workers’, Dr. Ghosh said that no society can survive without the massive contribution domestic work makes to national income. 

Highlights from Panel Discussion on Domestic Work in India

 

Highlights from Panel Discussion on Domestic Work in India

Key highlights from the panel discussion that was organized on 19 Feb 2014 at the Press Club of India. The panel discussion highlighted the rights and benefits for domestic workers, the role of legislation, the role of placement agencies and expectations from employers of domestic workers. 

 

State of the Economy: Interview with Dr. Sher Verick

 

State of the Economy: Interview with Dr. Sher Verick 

Dr. Sher Verick, Senior Economist, ILO South Asia talks to MK Venu on the ‘State of the Economy’ aired on Rajya Sabha TV on the rate of unemployment in the world, low wages of unskilled workers across the world, and the Indian labour market.

Unionizing Domestic Workers

 

Unionizing Domestic Workers

Ms. Amarjit Kaur, National Secretary, All India Trade Union Congress asks the Government of India to ratify ILO’s Convention No 189, introduce a national policy for domestic workers, initiate the process of fixing minimum wages for them, and recognize domestic workers as “workers”. 

Decent Work for Domestic Workers: Progress Made and Challenges Ahead

 

Decent Work for Domestic Workers: Progress Made and Challenges Ahead

Ms. Amelita King-Dejardin, Chief Technical Adviser (Domestic Workers), ILO highlights four factors which have given an impetus over the years to protect domestic workers - increase in the demand for domestic workers across the world, increase in the proportion of migrant domestic workers who are more vulnerable to abuses, positive experiences from some countries that have implemented laws and policies for protection of domestic workers, and mobilization of domestic workers.

Protecting Migrant Domestic Workers

 

Protecting Migrant Domestic Workers 

Father Chetan Chandran, National Domestic Workers Forum, Jharkhand highlights the limitations of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) in providing relief and benefits to domestic workers in India. He also says that it is important to ensure that workers who migrate in search for work are protected and given all benefits such as social security.

Eliminating Low Social Valuation of Domestic Workers

 

Eliminating Low Social Valuation of Domestic Workers 

Reiko Tsushima, Senior Gender Specialist, ILO says that the low social valuation given to this sector should be eliminated because ensuring decent work for domestic workers is not just for domestic workers but also for gender equality.

Equality at Work: Tackling the Challenges

 

Equality at Work: Tackling the Challenges

Sister Jeanne Devos, Founder, National Domestic Workers Forum highlights the biggest challenges that India faces with respect to providing protection to domestic workers such as child labour, increase in trafficking of women and children for domestic work, millions of domestic works that are not registered, and Convention No 189 that has not yet been ratified by India.

Domestic Workers Victims of Gender Hegemony

 

Domestic Workers Victims of Gender Hegemony 

Wahida Nizam, All India Trade Union Congress says that domestic workers are victims of gender hegemony that is prevalent in the system, and why it is important to engage with the employers to enable protection for domestic workers.

Understanding domestic work, Tine Staermose, Director, ILO India

 

Understanding Domestic Work 

Tine Staermose, Director ILO DWT for South Asia and Country Office for India says an estimated 10 million domestic workers in India need supportive legislation that recognizes their rights as workers. 

 

VOICES FROM THE GRASSROOTS

Voices For Domestic Worker Rights 

The United Nations in India in partnership with World Comics India uses the power of comics to tell stories from across India, across communities, and across languages. Through workshops held in the country, young people, women, men and children who are poor and from marginalized communities find expression through comics. The collection of stories from domestic workers and supporters are a reflection of how domestic workers are treated and the importance of realization of their rights. 


RELEVANT CONVENTIONS AND ACTS

 

Convention No. 189: Decent work for domestic workers


The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act 2008


Domestic workers Welfare and Social Security Act 2010


The Minimum Wages Act, 1948


INFORMATION on domestic work

 

Essential Elements of a National Policy for Domestic Workers

The National Advisory Council has drafted recommendations with regard to Essential Elements of a National Policy for Domestic Workers.


ILO strategy: making decent work a reality for domestic workers
 

The ILO Strategy for action towards making decent work a reality for domestic workers worldwide envisages support for countries that are committed and ready to take measures aimed at improving the protection and working conditions of domestic workers, regardless of whether these involve ratifying Convention No. 189 in the immediate future.

 

Policy Briefs on Domestic Work

The Domestic Work Policy briefs aim to stimulate and inform policy debates on advancing decent work for domestic workers. It provides information on terms and conditions of employment in domestic work, policy issues and varied approaches to addressing them around the world.

 

R201 - Domestic Workers Recommendation, 2011 (No. 201) 

This Recommendation concerns Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

 

Working Conditions Laws Database
The ILO Working Conditions Laws Database provides a picture of the regulatory environment of working time, minimum wages and maternity protection in more than 100 countries around the world.

 

Working conditions of domestic workers 

Around the world, domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses with respect to their working conditions. They often work for excessively long hours, with little to no pay, and with almost no access to social protections.

 

ILO instruments on Domestic Work 

A consolidation of relevant ILO instruments on Domestic Work such as C189 Domestic Workers Convention, 2011, R201 Domestic Workers Recommendation, 2011, etc.

 

UN instruments on Domestic Work 

A consolidation of relevant UN instruments on Domestic Work such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, etc.

 

2014 Messages

The UN Secretary General Message for the World Day of Social Justice

 

The Secretary General’s Message on World Day of Social Justice 

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges countries across the world to make social justice central to achieving equitable and sustainable growth for all.

Message on World Day of Social Justice – 20 February

 

‘We are faced with a deep social crisis, a crisis too of social justice,’ says ILO Director-General on World Day for Social Justice  

The ILO Director-General Guy Ryder urges "policy-makers to converge on the ambition of a real global socio-economic recovery – a recovery for all – and a Post-2015 Development Agenda that helps lift all out of poverty."

News Articles

Domestic workers lowly paid in India on inequality: Jayati Ghosh, Economist
[Date: 01 March 2014, Source: The Economic Times]


"Domestic workers lowly paid in India on inequality"
[Date: 01 March 2014, Source: PTI News]


'Domestic workers entitled to fair working conditions'
[Date: 01 March 2014, Source: IANS]


Domestic workers lowly paid in India on inequality: Economist
[Date: 01 March 2014, Source: The Times of India]


Domestic workers lowly paid in India: Economist
[Date: 01 March 2014, Source: The Week]


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