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The great Indian middle class has abdicated its responsibilities to domestic workers, indicates a new survey.
With the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown, for the first time, we the Indian middle class (and upper classes) have owned the responsibility of taking care of our own homes. This has led to everyone cleaning, cooking and taking care of other household chores.
It is now that we should be truly appreciating the value of the domestic workers who take care of our houses so well, a job to which we actually didn’t pay much attention until these chores fell into our laps.
For almost 60 days now, most of us have not called our domestic worker in to work and for that period of time, they faced intense financial uncertainty and insecurity. Now a survey conducted by the Domestic Workers Sector Skill Council (DWSSC), an umbrella institution between government and non-government stakeholders in field of domestic workers, reveals that around 85% of domestic workers haven’t received their wages for this period.
According to the International Labour Organisation, 80% of all domestic workers globally are women. Many domestic workers (largely women) are migrant workers who have become both poorer than they were, as a result, some of them even finding themselves homeless. Many domestic workers migrate from rural areas of a state to metropolitan cities, and some even from one state to another in search of work (often from states with a higher level of unemployment such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal). Migrant citizens as it is, deal with poor living conditions in cities, with cramped housing in slums, and facing ill-treatment from government officials as well as the police and landlords.
Women who are domestic workers take up these often low-paying jobs, primarily because of their precarious financial condition. Many such women are also the sole bread-winners of their households, especially if they are widows or have alcoholic husbands. All of these problems have only been aggravated by the lockdown, aggravated by the fact that many women have also had to deal with domestic violence during this period, with no opportunity to leave the home.
In this survey, 38% of domestic workers mentioned that they faced problems related to accessing food and other rations provided by the government. Around 30% stated they don’t have enough money to survive and wondered how many days could they manage without it. As mentioned before, only 15% were paid by their employers for this period.
23% of domestic workers have migrated back to their hometowns while 76% still stay in cities in hopes of getting some employment. While the government and NGOs have made opened helplines to help those in need, only 41% of the workers were actually aware of these helplines. This shows that the most vulnerable people who need help, have not received the information they really need at this time. One of the few positive statistics to emerge was that 98.5% of the workers surveyed were aware of the precautions to be taken during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In these trying times, we need to really pay our domestic workers their dues, not forgetting that it is they who help us smoothly run our houses when we are at work. Many of us are privileged to have permanent jobs with fixed incomes or at least a sufficient financial cushion – it is our duty to give our domestic workers their wages and not shirk from this responsibility.
This is the least one can do to help relieve some tension from the lives of domestic workers.
Image via Pixabay
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