Girl in Gurgaon: Cases of abuse of domestic workers raise questions about informal employment sector

Source: The post is based on the article “Girl in Gurgaon: Cases of abuse of domestic workers raise questions about informal employment sector” published in the Live Mint on 10th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Employment.

Relevance: Concerns associated with domestic work.

News: Recently, a Gurgaon-based couple was booked for allegedly assaulting and torturing a minor girl who worked for them as a domestic help. An FIR has been registered under sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

About Domestic work in India

Domestic work in India serves as a major and growing employment avenue, especially for uneducated and unskilled workers from rural areas as well as the urban poor.

According to the government’s e-Shram portal, a national database of unorganised workers, almost 10% of the workers registered are engaged as domestic and household workers.

Over the years, there has been a growth in the number of private agencies that act as a conduit between the demand and supply ends of the market. Employment in this category tends to be dominated by women, with most of them being migrants.

As urbanisation increases, the nuclearisation of families rises, and the pressures on families of old-age care increase the demand for domestic care work is only likely to escalate.

What is the bigger concern associated with domestic work?

The recent issue highlights a) the nature and form of informal employment relationships in India and b) the unequal power equations between the employers and employees that underlie them.

The other challenges faced by domestic workers include a) the work often involves long hours, b) the wages in these occupations in urban areas, especially in the major metropolitan centres, may be higher than in rural areas, c) the implementation of minimum wage rules remains an unaddressed issue across the country, d) these workers have little bargaining power, e) they have little access to social protection and are at times subject to harassment and abuse and f) low state capacity led to implementation issues on the ground.

Though the involvement of private agencies indicates some sort of push towards the formalisation of domestic workers. Their functioning remains mostly informal in nature. Most of them fail to provide any form of support, financial or otherwise, to these girls and women.

What should be done to address the concerns associated with domestic work?

There is a need to address the power imbalance and provide greater protection for domestic workers. The government should also retain a degree of flexibility in work structures.

The government should also ensure detailed documentation and greater transparency in work contracts, along with stricter enforcement of rGirl in Gurgaon: Cases of abuse of domestic workers raise questions about informal employment sector and regulations.

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