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Domestic workers will have more rights!

The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has notified the draft National Policy on Domestic Workers. The policy aims to provide social security benefits to an estimated 39 lakh people employed as domestic workers by private households, of which 26 lakhs are female domestic workers.
A domestic worker, domestic helper, domestic servant, manservant or menial, is a person who works within the employer's household.domestic workerdomestic helper, domestic servant, manservant or menial, is a person who works within the employer's household.
  • In the decade after liberalization, there was a nearly 120% rise in the number of domestic workers in India.
  • Women constitute over two-thirds of the workforce in this unorganized sector.
  • According to estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are at least four million domestic servants in India.
  • Domestic work as an economic activity is too vast and employs too many to remain unregulated. Though the 2011 NSSO data put the number of domestic workers at 3.9 million, trade unions estimate the number to be around 10 million.
  • Most of these are from vulnerable communities – Adivasis, Dalits or landless OBCs. Nearly all of them are migrant workers. And an overwhelming number are women.
Most of the domestic servants are migrants, women, many are minors, and belong to the lowest end of the economic spectrum. This makes them easy to replace, and easier still to exploit. Indeed, hardly a week goes by without some news report about a domestic help being abused by her employer. Cases of torture, beatings, sexual assault, and incarceration are common. Since they belong to the unorganized sector, there are no laws safeguarding their rights – no minimum wage requirements, no health or insurance benefits, and no job security whatsoever. The nexus of the state and the market has managed to keep domestic work outside the realm of economic regulation. Neither the Maternity Benefits Act nor the Minimum Wages Act or any of the scores of other labour laws apply to domestic work. 
Domestic workers can be hired and fired at will. The employer has no legally binding obligations. In a country where 93% of the workforce is in the unorganized sector and therefore beyond the purview of most labour laws, domestic workers represent a new low in terms of disempowerment: they are not even recognised as workers. Their work — cooking, cleaning, dish-washing, baby-sitting — is not recognised as work by the state.
Apart from facing routine, structural exploitation in the form of low wages, heavy workloads, and long hours, domestic workers face graver dangers, as is evident from cases of employers confining and assaulting them coming to light with frightening regularity. 
The inequality of domestic workers’ circumstances is accentuated by the fact their workplace falls within the privacy of the homes of people that are invariably more privileged than they are. Although successive governments have drafted policies, they are yet to become law.

Features of the Policy
The important features of the policy are:

Facilitating the domestic workers to register as unorganised workers under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. This will help domestic workers to access and obtain social security benefits like life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits, as well as old age protection.Providing domestic workers with the right to form their own associations and unions.Right to minimum wages and access to social security.Right to enhance their skills.Protection of domestic workers from abuse and exploitation, giving them access to courts.Tribunals for grievance redressal, the establishment of a mechanism for the regulation of private placement agencies.Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic workers.Under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, the Central Government is providing social security benefits relating to life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits, old age protection to the unorganised workers including domestic workers.
The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment is also in process of drafting a universal social security code that would cover even domestic workers, who are otherwise deprived of benefits such as medical insurance, pension, maternity and mandatory leave.