By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Domestic workers are the worst hit segment in the labour market during the one and half years of the COVID-19 crisis. Even after ten years of adoption of the Domestic Workers’ Convention they have been fighting for legal recognition, equality, decent remuneration and working conditions, and social security. The pandemic has further exposed their continued vulnerabilities.
Many in India may have firsthand knowledge about the exploitative attitudes of majority of people who employ domestic workers at very small wage taking benefit of their helplessness. Majority of the Domestic Workers are women who work as help entirely for survival for their children and for themselves. Most of them are illiterate who choose such jobs in absence of any better job in the labour market. When country was put under lockdown last year, the most domestic workers were asked by their employers not to come in their homes, putting them in perilous conditions followed by a tragic story for every domestic help and their children, because of lack of any social security for them in this country.
The condition of domestic workers all over the world has been more or less similar. The report released on the tenth anniversary of the historic International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention has brought it to cognisance of the people as to how domestic workers are still fighting for recognition as workers and essential service providers despite their labour rights were confirmed by the convention. Working conditions for many have not improved in a decade and have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report emphasized.
The Asia and the Pacific region remains the world’s largest employer of domestic workers with 50.6 per cent, about 38.3 million. China is at top with 22 million domestic workers which is about 2.9 per cent followed by India about 4.8 million, about 1.3 per cent. The percentage of live in domestic workers in India was very low at only 8.7 per cent in 2019. That is why lockdown of 2000 affected 91.3 per cent of the domestic workers. Migrant domestic workers suffered the most when they lost their jobs.
As the most other regions domestic works are also done in Asia and the Pacific largely by women about 78.4 per cent. Obviously, women domestic workers suffered more than their male counterparts. The region is also the largest employer of male domestic workers accounting 46.1 per cent, about 8.3 million.
At the height of the crisis, job losses among domestic workers ranged from 5-20 per cent in most European countries, as well as Canada and South Africa. In the Americas, the situation was worse, with losses amounting to 25-50 per cent. Over the same period, job losses among other employees were less than 15 per cent in most countries.
Data in the report shows that the world’s 75.6 million domestic workers accounting for 4.5 per cent of employees worldwide, have suffered significantly, which in turn has affected the households that rely on them to meet their daily care needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated working conditions that were already very poor, the report says. Domestic workers were more vulnerable to the fallout from the pandemic because of long-standing gaps in labour and social protection. This particularly affected the more than 60 million domestic workers in the informal economy.
A decade ago the adoption of the landmark Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 was hailed as a breakthrough for the tens of millions of domestic workers around the world – most of whom are women. Since then there has been some progress – with a decrease of more than 16 percentage points in the number of domestic workers who are wholly excluded from the scope of labour laws and regulations.
However, a large number, around 36 percent, of domestic workers remain wholly excluded from labour laws, pointing to the urgent need to close legal gaps, particularly in Asia and the Pacific and the Arab States, where the gaps are largest.
Even where domestic workers are covered by labour and social protection laws, implementation remains a significant issue of exclusion and informality. According to the report, only one-in-five, ie about 18.8 per cent domestic workers enjoy effective, employment-related, social protection coverage.
Domestic work remains a female-dominated sector even now, employing 57.7 million women, who account for 76.2 per cent of domestic workers. While women make up the majority of the workforce in Europe and Central Asia and in the Americas, men outnumber women in Arab States and North Africa who are about 63.4 per cent, and make up just under half of all domestic workers in Southern Asia about 42.6 per cent.
The vast majority of domestic workers are employed in two regions. About half, 38.3 million, can be found in Asia and the Pacific – largely on account of China – while another quarter, about 17.6 million, are in the Americas. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the immediate need of action to provide legal and social security to domestic workers for all regions across the world. (IPA Service)