Domestic workers are people who work in a household or a number of houses and are not related to anyone living in them. The kinds of work they do include cooking, cleaning, washing, driving and baby-sitting. In urban India, domestic workers are usually those coming from the rural or tribal areas or migrating from neighboring countries or states. With the increase in nuclear families, the number of domestic workers has also increased in the country. However, their wages, which determine their living conditions, remain a matter of concern to the policy makers and labour unions.

Wages of domestic workers in India are usually fixed by employers and depend on various factors like nature of work, skill level, time required to complete the work, number of house works, house size and people staying in the house. Wages also depend on the city or town, and number of years of experience. Domestic workers may do a particular kind of work for a few hours in a number of households or take care of all kinds of works in a single household. Their wage, depending on these factors may range from Rs. 1500 to Rs. 9000 per month. Domestic helps working in a single household and living with the family are usually provided benefits along with their wages, like health-care, clothes, place to stay and food. Other domestic workers usually live in the poverty stricken slum areas of the city, thus suffering from prejudice and social maladies.

Due to the high attrition rate and work instability, domestic workers are at risk of being exploited. Domestic workers in India have long suffered from lack of detailed rules and regulations for hiring and paying domestic helps. Women domestic workers are some of the worst affected in the country, as they are vulnerable to sexual abuse. Although, there has been a number of changes in the Indian legal systems for the welfare of the domestic helps. These include:

  • Industrial Workers’ Act – This act by the Central Government now includes the domestic helps as well.
  • National Floor Level of Minimum Wage – With effect from April 1st 2011, the panel under the Minimum Wages Act set the pay to Rs. 115 per day for all workers including domestic workers. States like Karnataka and Kerala have already implemented the act.
  • Domestic Workers (Registration, Social Security and Welfare) Act – This has provisions for all domestic workers between ages 18 and 60 to get registered, and have minimum 15 days leave in a year. The registered workers are also entitled to get 10 hours of rest each day of work.
  • Tamil Nadu Manual Workers Act – It has provisions for the regulation of wages, employment, social security and welfare schemes for manual workers, which includes domestic helps and construction workers.
  • Maharashtra Mathadi, Hamal and other Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act – This regulates the welfare and employment of domestic workers, loaders/unloaders and other manual workers in Maharashtra.

Casual Leave

Several studies around the world have shown that low wages of domestic workers is a serious issue not only in India, but other countries as well. Here is a comparative analysis of domestic workers’ wages in some of the countries of the world, including India:

Country Name Average per Hour Wage for Domestic Workers in terms of Dollars and Purchasing Power Parity
India 2.09
Brazil 2.2
Argentina 4.55
Indonesia 0.79
Russia 2.56
Vietnam 1.66
UK 13.6
China 1.81
Denmark 14.32
Netherlands 13.18

Here, we can see that whereas countries like Brazil and Russia are similar in domestic workers’ wages, developing nations like Indonesia and Vietnam are far worse in paying them. In contrast, developed countries like the UK, Netherlands and Denmark are much ahead in providing domestic workers better wages. In conclusion, economic scenario prevailing in different countries is reflected in the wages of their domestic workers.