In a move that might increase its appeal among the migrant worker community in urban areas, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has come out with a policy to formalise the domestic workers and extent social benefits to them.
The Union labour ministry on Monday put out the broad contours of the policy for public discussion. The four key takeaways are recognition of these people as “workers”, guaranteeing them a minimum wage, permitting unionisation, and devising a dispute-resolution mechanism.
The policy seeks to give these workers equal remuneration, minimum wages, fair employment terms, and a mechanism for redress of grievances. If adopted, the policy will give the workers granted a rights to form unions and get protection from violence and abuse. They will also have an access to health and maternity benefits
and old-age pensions.
The ministry has invited comments on the draft from the general public within a month.
The government believes that an institutional dispute-resolution mechanism will help avoid incidents like the recent one in Noida where a female domestic help
working in a housing society was allegedly beaten up, following which a not-so-peaceful protest took place. The mob also blocked the Dadri-Surajpur-Chhalera road at Barola.
There are about 4.2 million domestic workers in India and they are in high demand in urban areas, especially with the changing nature of lifestyle. Yet, they continue to live and work without respectable social conditions and basic facilities. Women form the bulk of this workforce. The absence of a fixed wage structure forces them to work in many households for earning a decent living.
The 189 convention of the International Labour Organisation ensures various rights for domestic workers. These include fixed wage, weekly holiday and medical benefits. India, however, has yet to ratify the convention.
Due to the nature of their job and dispersed locations across any city, domestic workers have mostly remained unorganised so far. And this is understood to be a reason why they are often exploited by employers and private domestic workers’ agencies and made forced to work for long hours for lower wages.