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Minimum Wages Act for domestic workers

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Topics Covered:

  1. Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

 

Minimum Wages Act for domestic workers

What to study?

  • Static Part: Key features of the proposed National Policy on Domestic Workers, International Labour Organisation’s Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
  • Dynamic and Current: Need for a policy and guidelines on this, vulnerability and challenges faced by domestic workers, international experience.

 

Context: A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking its intervention to bring dignity to “India’s invisible workforce in the informal sector” — the domestic workers.

 

Demands:

  • The petition asked the Supreme Court to lay down guidelines to protect the workers’ rights.
  • The petition sought the recognition of domestic work under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
  • Their work hours should be reduced to eight a day and they should be given a mandatory weekly off as a basic right under Article 21.

 

Need for guidelines:

Indian homes have witnessed a 120% increase in domestic workers in the decade post liberalisation. While the figure was 7,40,000 in 1991, it has increased to 16.6 lakh in 2001.

  • However, latent classism and lack of education make domestic workers prone to violence and abuse at the hands of their employers and placement agencies.
  • Worsening their vulnerabilities are the absence of proper documentation, which also increases their reliance on employers to access social security benefits.
  • As employment is largely through word of mouth or personal referrals, employment contracts are rarely negotiated, leaving the terms of employment to the whims of the employer.
  • Other issues include- Major incidences of violence (physical and sexual) by employers and the lack of redressal machinery for workers in this rapidly developing domestic services industry.

 

Who is a domestic worker?

A domestic worker is a person who is involved in domestic work like cleaning, washing, cooking etc. He/she plays an important role in the wellbeing of the family but are often neglected and abused by the members of family and the society.

 

Way ahead:

If the domestic workers are taken as assets & human resource, their standard of living will increase if minimum wage is fixed. It is also important to create awareness about the significant role played by the domestic workers in the wellbeing of the members of family and society as a whole, thereby imparting behavioural change.

 

Backgrounder- International Labour Organisation’s Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers:

The ILO convention 189 on domestic workers mainly aims to provide domestic worker a decent working condition with daily and weekly (at least 24 h) rest hours, entitlement to minimum wage, to choose the place where they live and spend their leave and protective measures against violence etc.

 

Why India has not ratified the convention?

  • Daily household work is not considered as an economic activity in Indian society.
  • Lack of education, awareness and domestic worker unions among domestic workers which are mainly women centric.
  • Labour legislation comes under state government.
  • The national laws and practices are not fully into conformity with the provisions of the Convention.
  • One of the clauses of convention mentions “written contracts”. Chances of misuse as many domestic workers are illiterate.
  • Fear of misuse of unionisation: one of the clauses says “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining”.

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question:

1. Why is India unwilling to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers? Comment whether India should ratify this Convention or not.

2. Why is there a need for the Parliament to urgently enact a comprehensive law covering the rights of the country’s roughly 20 million domestic workers? Examine.