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Living on the Margins of Development: Domestic Women Workers

Tewathia, Nidhi (2017): Living on the Margins of Development: Domestic Women Workers.


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In India, workers in the informal sector are considered to be vulnerable and marginalised. Benefits of economic growth rarely reach to this segment of the society and they are also excluded from benefits of physical and social infrastructure expansion. This is particularly true for women. Women are constantly engaged in the household activities which are often unacknowledged and unquantified. This unparallel contribution of women towards social reproduction of class has remained unpaid. Now that more and more women have started to take up employment outside the house, they are not able to perform household activities. The domestic helps have replaced them for performing household work and are being paid for it. The household work which was earlier unpaid has been quantified to some extent as payment is made to the domestic workers for such work. This paper discusses the unaccounted and invisible contribution of women domestic workers in our country. Women domestic workers are not recognized as workers and their work is undervalued. Home of the employer is the workplace for the domestic workers and this unique feature makes them vulnerable to abuses, exploitation and acute working conditions. But, these workers themselves are left on the margins of the development matrix. Stuck between bad working conditions and expectations of subservient loyalty, the Indian domestic worker has to cope with the worst aspects of both feudalism and capitalism.

This has led to a slew of new challenges for social justice that needs urgent consideration of the law makers and social scientists, given our national objective of inclusive growth. There is a common reluctance, in India, to accept the home as a work place. This is the prime reason for the low priority attached to labour rights and welfare in the current policy paradigm. The official data is unreliable and grossly inadequate as domestic work is notoriously under enumerated. The paper concludes by emphasising that the regulation and formalization of the domestic employment relationship is in the interests of both workers and employers. The government needs to draw its attention to the urgent need of provision of skill development, written contracts, regulatory body and regular inspections for the domestic workers. With the basic elements of protection, the government can assure them a minimum standard of living, compatible with self-respect and dignity which is essential to social justice.

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