Special Articles / S. Srinivasan, Ilango Ponnuswami / Scientific Writing and Publishing in Social Work
This study aimed to examine the living condition of women domestic workers in Tiruchirappalli District. According to International Labour Organization (ILO) there are more than 52 million domestic workers worldwide. Millions of domestic workers around the world remain excluded from protection enjoyed by other workers, says a new ILO report. The research design of this study adopted a descriptive diagnostic research design. It is discouraging to know that all the respondents in this study had some health problem or other problem they faced with most of the respondents having housing problems. Many of the women domestic workers were interested in politics and it was encouraging to come to know that all of the respondents had some future plans.
Keywords: Domestic Workers, Women, Socio, Economic, Living conditions.
Women domestic workers are a neglected group among the unorganized sector. For decades they have been exploited and only in recent years non-government organisations (NGOs) are taking up the cause of women domestic workers. This study is on the living condition of woman domestic workers. 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 with nearly no access to social protections. Globally, on average, 30% are excluded from labour legislation but a much greater number do not enjoy de facto minimum protection at work. To promote improved and equal working conditions for domestic workers, the ILO carries out policy advisory services for national constituents, technical assistance projects at country-level, research and knowledge development and policy advocacy campaigns. Critical areas addressed include policies and programs regarding working time of domestic workers that safeguards their health and safety, work-family balance and adequate rest, wage protection including minimum wage and employment practices that shape terms and conditions of employment of domestic workers.Joddar and Sakthivel explain that:
India’s workforce comprises nearly 92 per cent in the unorganised segment, with the entire farm sector falling under the informal category, while only one-fifth of the non-farm workers are found in the organised segment. Estimates suggest that in the non-farm sectors, as we move up the income ladder, the share of the informal sector gradually declines. However, as far as the agricultural sector is concerned, irrespective of economic class, the share of the unorganised workforce remains flat. Further analysis reveals that the coverage of social security schemes has been extremely sparse among the economically and socially vulnerable sections (2006).
They are unorganized workers; there are no labour laws to protect them or to set out their service conditions. Lacking unionization, they are left to the mercy of the employers. There are no laws to fix their wages; they have no basic rights, no amenities or social security, not leave entitlements as in seen with other jobs. Employees of the unorganized sector are also denied rights to health care, education, justice, human dignity and respect and of all unorganized labour workers; the domestic worker is closest to us in our homes. Where better then to sow the seed of humanism, human dignity and respect than to start it at home itself, even for those of us who do not have a domestic worker, surely we have known or heard of the plight of domestic workers. Domestic work has become more feminine over time.
Statement of the Problem
Women domestic workers face several problems in their personal and occupational life. They work long hours and are poorly paid. They don’t have job security. If they take leave even for genuine reasons, they may lose their job. Some of them work in more than two houses and can become sick. Women domestic workers experience health problems like respiratory disease, body aches and skin disease due to their occupational life. Their family life is marked by family conflicts poverty and debts. This study highlights these issues.
Need for the Study
The study needs to be done for the following reasons:
NGOs, which work for the woman domestic workers, can make use of the study for planning suitable programs for the women who are domestic workers. Woman domestic workers are unorganized, so the researcher being a student of social work can plan out suitable programs for organizing women domestic workers.
Objective of the Study
i) To study the respondents demographic details, ii) to identify the economic life and problems of the respondents, iii) to find out the occupational life and problems of the respondents, iv) to study the social life and problems of the respondents, v) to study the future plans of the respondents.
Basic Assumptions and Limitations
The researcher assumes that women domestic workers face problems in their social economic life due to the nature of their difficult occupational and social economic position.
The research design of the study is descriptivebecause the researcher describes the problems of the women domestic workers and aims to explore the inter-relationship among the variables in the study. The sources of the study are both primary and secondary; the primary data were collected directlyfrom the respondents. The secondary data was collected fromthe field from social workers involved in community work. The researcher used an interview schedule as a tool for data collection because the respondents were illiterate and therefore they had to be interviewed.
In the study women domestic workers refers to any women above 18 yrs residing in their place and who has been employed to do house hold duties either as part time or full time.
The term living condition in the study refers to the following aspects concerning the socio-economic life of women domestic workers. These include age, religion, caste, marital status, family type, economic life problems and occupational life problems, social life problems, including housing health, family life, community life and future plan.
III. Review of Literature
Problems of women domestic workers
Women “house workers” even today are one of the most exploited groups of unorganized workers. Since there is no law applicable to house worker’s employers about hiring and firing. House workers are in a personal struggle; they are victims of unmitigated injustice and are totally powerless and voiceless. They are often treated as objects and non-persons. A great majority of house workers come from villages. Those who come with their families are invariably settled into slums. Squats on pavements presentthe danger of continuous harassment and eviction. These people are totally uprooted from their own culture, their accustomed food, traditions and language thereby living a life of fear and isolation.
Because of the nature of their work and the workplace, they suffer loneliness and alienation from their roots as well as from any assurance for a bright future. Young girls not accustomed to a new life style of the city will find it difficult to fit into life and too often their future chances for marriage is affected by the stigma of their work as house workers and their stay in city. The majority of house workers are illiterate and unable to read or write. They are unable to communicate with their dear ones or with anybody else in far away villages. Further, they suffer from inferiority due to lack education. They live and work in a state of constant fear of being thrown out of their jobs. They are insecure about their personal safety and they have nowhere to go to find shelter if they feel insecure.
Many face harassment every day. While a small number of house workers are happily settled in their new homes, they may find their employers hostile and always at pains to find fault with them. They have bear patiently all shouting, abusive language and even physical violence and sexual harassment. Workloadsare invariably too heavy and exasperating. Anything found missing in the house sees them to be the first accused and threatened with physical violence, police involvement and dismissal. House workers are most vulnerable and often treated without compassion. House workers are easy victims of exploitation, as there is no specific work contract in most cases. They have no bargaining power. Dismissal is arbitrary, often with no notice. Besides being exploited, they are often highly discriminated. Most house workers have to accept the existing sex-caste-class discrimination, all-alone in the context of a house which is not their own.
The house workers are totally dependent on their employers for their daily food and shelter and hence they have little hope for any remedy under the present circumstances. One of the basic causes for the present situation of the house workers is the loophole in the legal system, which has ignored them. None of the labour laws are applicable to them today. This is a blatant discrimination. Deprived of legal protection it is no wonder that they are victims of a callous society. In fact, public opinion is not always in their favour either. It is strange that the house workers are not accepted as “workers” and are conveniently called “servants” or “ayahs”. They are treated as ‘non-persons’, as objects and hence experience powerless. This is slavery under the guise of ‘charity’, which believes that house workers being poor, should be grateful for whatever they get, which conveniences the employers. However, collective strength and organization of house workers has begun and collective strength is building up.
Brenda, in his article discusses debates within public discourse as well as private accounts on the impact of foreign maids on a range of issues, including female participation in the workforce; the social reproduction of everyday life including the delegation of the domestic burden and the upbringing of the young; the presence of “enclaves” of foreign nationals in public space; and bilateral relations between host and sending countries. It concludes that the transnational labour migration is a multifaceted phenomenon with important repercussions on all spheres of life, hence requiring dynamic policy intervention on the part of the authorities concerned.
Legal Remedies Available for Domestic Workers
Domestic work takes place under extremely difficult and oppressive conditions with low pay, no limits on working hours, lack of dignity and no protection or social security.Estimates from the National Sample Survey of 2009-10 suggest that in that year there were around 2.52 million workers engaged in domestic work as their usual principal activity, up from 1.62 million in 1999-2000 – an increase of more than 150 per cent over the decade. This makes it one of the most “dynamic” sources of employment in the country as a whole, growing even faster than construction which emerged as themajor employer for men workers. Of the total domestic workers in the country in 2009-10, more than two-thirds lived in urban India and 57 per cent of them were women. This is a lower rate of female involvement in this type of employment than in many other countries, and reflects the combination of several forces: the long history in India of the affluent employing domestic servants, which created aspirations of such hiring patterns also among the newly affluent; low employment generation in other activities as well as uncertain household income generation prospects that have increased the supply of such workers; and changes in income distribution and GDP growth patterns that have created a new middle class that is able to afford to demand such workers.
The ILO Convention on Domestic Work was passed by the International Labour Congress in 2010, but the Government of India has still not ratified it. This Convention clearly outlines the basic rights of domestic workers, and provides guidelines on terms and conditions of employment, wages, working hours, occupational safety and health, social security and the avoidance of child labour. Ratification is obviously just a first step in a longer process, but it is still likely to be an important step in ensuring the dignity of all workers in the country. The delay in simply ratifying such an obviously desirable convention suggests that there is not sufficient seriousness about the matter in official policy circles in India. Ultimately, ensuring basic rights for domestic workers obviously has to be based on their social and political mobilisation, which can affect the labour market conditions. But it also requires a significant change in the attitudes and behaviour of their employers, who constitute not just the rich elite groups in the country but also a growing number of middle class beneficiaries of the economic growth process.
Thus the position of the domestic worker is in any case, extremely vulnerable, physically, psychologically and economically. This has been further weakened due to the lack of any protective legal provisions, leaving them exposed to exploitation of the highest degree. No wonder it is an open area for few plunder. Labour courts also do not have any jurisdiction over domestic employments since the existing labour laws are not applicable to domestic employment. So where do the domestic workers go to demand justice in any case, in a situation where they are by and large unpaid or denied wages. How can they conceivably muster the funds to approach courts after realizing they have been denied wages? Particularly where can domestic workers whose wages have been denied find the requisite court fees and lawyer’s fees?
Whatever the answer is, the right granted by our constitution to every Indian citizen concerning the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, choices like the place of living and the right to live with human dignitycertainly do not apply to domestic workerscurrently.
ILO Convention 189
Domestic workers who care for families and households must have the same basic labour rights as other workers. These rights include:
Reasonable working hours, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
Despite the size of the sector, many domestic workers experience poor working conditions and insufficient legal protection.Domestic workers are frequently expected to work longer hours than other workers and in many countries do not have the same rights to weekly rest that are enjoyed by other workers. Combined with the lack of rights, the extreme dependency on an employer and the isolated and unprotected nature of domestic work can render them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse (Polask, 2013).
IV. Result and Discussion
Diagram 1 show that the respondents were educationally backward. This impacts on their socio-economic status. The majority of the respondents (62%) were illiterate, with 14 percent of them having attended the up to 3rdstd, 18 percent of the respondents studied up to 5thstd and remaining 6 percent of the respondents studied up to 7th std. The Government, through the Education Bill, has assured free education for all its citizens. Yet the level of illiteracy in this sector is to an alarmingly high degree.
Diagram 2 shows that all the respondents had some occupational problems. The majority of the respondents say that their wages were very low (30%), heavy workloads (24%), the house owners not giving leave (16%). Some of the respondents also faced health problems due to work reasons (14%) and ill treatment related problems (16%).
Diagram 3 implies that majority of the respondents (38%) seem to be affected by all kinds of body pain. (20%) percent of the respondents are facing itching problems, (16%) of the respondents are facing skin related problems occur because of heavy disposal of sunrays when the workers work in day time. (12%) of the respondents are facing chest pain because of age factor. It is discouraging to know that all the respondents had some kind of health problem.
The majority of the respondents 92 percent come under the age group of 25-45 years. This is the period during which a person has the strength to work hard and to earn the maximum and therefore this is an important finding for a socio economic study like this. 64 percent of the respondents were married and therefore had great family responsibilities. 18 percent were unmarried and had to go for job in order to save money for their marriage. The majority of the respondents, 68 percent belonged to the Hindu religion while 22 percent of the respondents belongto Christian religion and 10 percent belong to Muslim religion. 84 percent of the respondents belonged to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe while the remaining 16 percent of the respondents belonged to the backward and most backward class. This is an indication of their social backwardness. The respondents were educationally backward. This in turn affected their socio-economic status. 76 percent of the respondents belong to nuclear family. This is a typical feature of urban community. The people earned around Rs. 300 – 500 per month. Of those respondents who earned more than 500 Rs. per month, work in more than two houses occurred. A large majority, 92 percent of the respondents had a family income of Rs. 1000-3000 per month. The respondents had to spend all their earnings in meeting their basic needs. All the respondents had debts, which show their economic condition was very low. The respondents borrowed money for genuine reasons, which was identified from the research. 72 percent gave negative opinions about their economic life. This shows their poor economic condition. The respondents were involved in hard physical labour, which was identified from the research. 74 percent worked for more than three hours, which means they had to do physical labours during their work hours and the respondents were not able to take rest. This shows that the respondents has to work for long has without rest. All the respondents had some occupational problems. In spite of all their problems a majority of 56 percent felt that they had to manage with their present occupation. A large majority, 76 percent had some negative habits in their life. It is discouraging to know that all the respondents had some health problem or other problem their faced. Most of the respondents were having housing problems. Many of the women domestic workers were interested in politics. It is encouraging to know that all the respondents had some future plans.
A comprehensive labour law must be enacted for protecting domestic workers, encompassing classes related to working hours standard minimum wages and other allowances, one time wages etc., and among other matters making it imperative for the employees to register the names and addresses of the domestic workers/ servants employed by them and the kind and quantum of work required to be done by him/her as well as the conditions of work argued to etc., important points of the same be publicly exhibited in all posh areas where domestic servants are employed. Refusal to pay wages to domestic worker must be made a recognizable criminal offence and in addition for it to be made a civil liability to pay 10 times the amount due to be paid. Gratuity, bonus, L.T.C., C.L.M.L., E.L; etc., and all such other benefits applicable to other labourers should be made applicable to domestic workers too. The government from time to time should also fix minimum wages of domestic workers on the basis of the kind of work and the working hours and the same should be published. As most of the domestic workers are tribal women, the National Commission for SC’s and ST’s and the National Commission for women not only must see to it that a comprehensive labour in enacted but they must also ensure that they are involved at all levels they policy making, its executions and the follow up actions to be taken. The domestic worker should be encouraged to form/join unions in order to pursue and further their rights.
The women domestic workers are educationally backward. The agency engaged in this particular slum can arrange for adult literacy program for the women domestic workers. Even though the majority of domestic workers don’t have any planned or well organized forum. So they can organize a well formed forum. The domestic worker’s can discuss their problems and implement some social actions through this forum. The local organization can create awareness among the people about the domestic workers bill, as no one on this area is aware of the bill. Since the women domestic workers suffer from more health problems, local organization can arrange for health camps. Even the college students (NSS) can give some awareness programme to the people with regard to health. Loan facilities can be arranged by the organization for the domestic workers. The government is launching programs to promote self help group among domestic workers.This study has brought out the socio-economic problem of women domestic workers. Women domestic workers face problems like heavy work load job in security, improper health conditions, in debt and poor status. The researcher hopes the findings of the study can be used by the local organization working in this area to improve the condition of women in this area.
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