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What's Inside

Domestic Workers Sector Skill Council (DWSSC) -- a not-for-profit company that works under the ambit of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship -- has done a survey during the COVID-19  lockdown in India. DWSSC did a random sample survey among 200 workers spread across eight states -– Delhi, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu. Had the sample size been larger, the results could have differed, according to DWSSC. The results of the survey are indicative of the problems faced by domestic help during the lockdown.

The key findings of the survey done by Domestic Workers Sector Skill Council entitled Effects of Lockdown on Domestic Workers (released in June 2020) are as follows (please click here to access):

• Nearly 96 percent of the domestic workers stopped going to work during lockdown while only 4 percent continued working.

• During the lockdown, when physical movement of citizens was restricted, domestic workers too got affected. They were asked not to report to work and the government advised the employers to pay them during the lockdown period. Nearly 85 percent domestic workers were found not to be paid by their employers during the lockdown period while only 15 percent were being paid during the same span. Most domestic workers residing in big cities were being paid by their employers.

• DWSSC survey shows that about 30 percent of the domestic workers didn’t have enough money/ cash with them. This was their biggest challenge as they didn't know how long they would be able to manage with the small amount of money left with them. Most domestic workers did not receive payments during the lockdown period from their employers.

• Almost 38 percent of domestic workers faced problems in arranging food as the stocks available in the nearby shops were limited. Though not all but some domestic workers also faced problems in accessing ration from PDS shops.

• Roughly one-fourth of domestic workers did not face any problem related to food and majority of them were either those who returned back to their native place or workers whose employers were paying them wages/ salaries during the lockdown period.

• Approximately 23.5 percent of domestic workers migrated back to their native places as their spouse/ guardians (fathers) were daily wage workers like painters, mason, etc. Most domestic workers who returned back were mainly from big cities. Almost 76.5 percent workers have stayed back in the cities/ towns where they work as they were living there along with their families.

• Only 41.5 percent of the domestic workers were aware about government helplines to avail the facilities being provided during the lockdown period.

• Majority of the domestic workers (nearly 98.5 percent) were aware about the precautions to be taken to avoid getting infected by COVID-19.

• The DWSSC website states that domestic workers or domestic help constitute nearly 20 million of the workforce, majority being women whose services mostly go unrecognized. These millions of domestic help can be found in Indian families from lower middle-class households in the villages to the most affluent ones in the metropolitan cities. Domestic workers function as ‘lifelines’ to households, render multiple types of services, as full-time and part-time, live-in and live-out, and they are described as ‘domestic servants’. The practices associated with this occupation are undignified and completely unacceptable, partly for the reason that domestic workers have not yet acquired the status of a profession or a trade.

• A domestic worker may perform variety of services for an individual or a family, providing care to children, elderly, ailing, disabled, besides household maintenance, cooking, laundry, shopping, etc., while functioning as skilled and unskilled worker. Domestic workers constitute one of the largest segments of the unorganised sector, and their size is vaguely estimated to be between 4.75 million and 25 million, says the DWSSC website. They mostly belong to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes communities.

Rural Expert

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