Domestic work means ‘being employed to perform household tasks in others’ homes for financial compensation.’ It is the largest female occupation in urban India with estimates ranging between 10 million to over 50 million, according to the International Labor Organization (2010) and other unofficial estimates.
Domestic work is a growing sector in India and has potential to be a valuable source of income and empowerment particularly for millions of women who are minimally educated and low skilled. However, this potential is not realized for the majority of girls and women in domestic work.
- Millions of girls and women who work as domestic workers in India are among the poorest and most exploited group of workers.
- Domestic work is not recognized under India’s labor laws – and hence the vast majority of domestic workers work more than 15 hours a day, 7 days a week with no legal protection for fair wages, and they’re vulnerable to various abuses in the workplace.
- Because they are poor, uneducated and low skilled these workers have limited opportunities and no bargaining power.
- Live-in domestic workers are completely dependent on their employers for their basic needs such as food, living conditions, medical needs and freedom to leave the homes they work in, which makes their situation akin to modern day slavery.
Trafficking & Abuse of Children
Every year, thousands of children and young women are trafficked from India’s poorest rural and tribal regions, and placed as ‘domestic workers’ in affluent or middle-class urban homes.
- Weak enforcement of the legal ban on child labor and the desperation of families in rural areas who struggle for survival, have created an unprecedented increase in the trafficking and selling of girls and young women (ages 8-16) into the domestic work sector, since 2005.
- Poor, uneducated families are easily deceived into pulling their daughters out of school and selling them to traffickers who offer a lump sum payment, wage remittances and the promise of a better life. Many of these traffickers pose as placement agencies in key cities and extract considerable placement fees from employers who avail of their services.
- India has a deeply entrenched system of employers hiring child domestic workers – a child worker costs less, can be more easily manipulated, and is easier to keep hidden. And the scale of exploitation and abuse (emotional, physical and sexual) that child domestic workers face is vastly under reported.
- Fewer than 6% of trafficking victims get rescued, and 30% are never seen or heard from again.
The good news is that despite the issues being complex and fairly deep-rooted, progress is being made. Programs run by our partner National Domestic Workers’ Movement (and subsidiary Jaan Foundation) have produced definitive outcomes relating to the empowerment of domestic workers, rescue & rehabilitation of abuse victims, trafficking prevention, and education of child workers, at the grassroots and policy levels. These outcomes are replicated across multiple states in India and are pivotal to bringing about large-scale change for millions of domestic workers.
Thirty years of NDWM’s efforts at the grassroots and policy levels have wrought significant positive outcomes for thousands of domestic workers, but there is still much to be done. The Indika Alliance’s goal is to assist NDWM (and subsidiary Jaan Foundation) with financial support, expertise and stakeholder collaboration, in order to expand services, create improvements and amplify impact for tens of thousands of adult & child domestic workers.