ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Status of Tribal Domestic Workers in Jharkhand

The status of the tribal domestic workers in Jharkhand is explored. It is evident that large numbers of tribal women are engaged as domestic workers inside and outside of the state, and the sector provides a large chunk of employment apart from the cultivation and agricultural sector. The data show differential engagement in the sector by age, urban–rural location, gender, and tribe.


Industrialisation and urbanisation encourage the demand of domestic services, with a servant-employing middle class and a surplus of unskilled workers (Neetha 2008). The growth of domestic service often increases inequality both in the rural and urban areas (ILO and IHD 2017; Wadhawan 2013). The rise of the nuclear family and dual-career couples has also increased the demand for domestic work. A study done by the Indian Social Institute (ISI) in 1993 had revealed that employers showed a preference for young women, especially young tribal girls, as they were seen as more reliable, obedient, and efficient in domestic work, especially in taking care of babies and the elderly. Further, they would also stick with the job for more extended periods, agree to work for lower wages, and could be controlled more easily (ISI 1993). The perception for the tribal woman as a better domestic worker on a cheaper wage is still prevalent.

The data on domestic workers show the feminisation of the service with the share of female workers having increased sharply over the period covered by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) 61st (200405) and 66th (200910) rounds. There is also a wage gap between male and female domestic workers due to men engaging in more skilled work, like driving and gardening, compared to the women working (cleaning and cooking) in the same household. This gendered division of labour is the product of the patriarchal nature of the society (ILO and IHD 2017). The work done by women domestic workers is considered unskilled, and, therefore, it attracts mostly uneducated or less educated tribal women. Domestic work occurs in an isolated, largely non-regulated, and privatised environment, and most domestic workers negotiate job terms and pay on an individual basis. There is no provision of social security in terms of provident fund, health insurance, or pension. The conditions of work and poor socio-economic conditions of the workers expose the workers to physical and sexual violence, which remains mostly under-reported (Gupta 2019). The tribal pockets of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are recruitment hubs for women tribal domestic workers, picked up by recruitment agencies (Neetha 2008). These women often work in large cities. In Jharkhand, the majority of migrants are young women, some even below the age of 16, who leave home mainly because of lack of work opportunities locally and for mere survival (ILO 2015). According to a study by the ISI (1993), there is a preference for young girls as they are easier to control and they also obey their employers.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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