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

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Bound to Labour

The Cyclical Burden of Wages and Time Poverty on Female Domestic Workers

With a surge in student and white-collar population, Pune has attracted migrant labourers to meet the demand for domestic work. This paper attempts to understand the lives of part-time female domestic workers in the Viman Nagar neighbourhood. It explores the current market conditions of domestic work by examining the wage trends and perceived negotiating power among respondents. By utilising the time-use surveys, it examines the time distribution of a female domestic worker’s day, and the resultant time poverty experienced due to the multiple shifts of domestic work. Delineating these two dimensions, this paper analyses the power relations that underpin interactions of the private and public realms within the informal sector. It further attempts to critique the gendered consequences of being a migrant domestic worker in a highly unregulated market space. 

Although often overlooked, the domestic workers’ labour serves as the engine of the economy. Women, who constitute the largest section of this labour, are at the forefront of both paid and unpaid work in the Indian economy. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there is an official estimate of 4.75 million employed as domestic workers of which 3 million are women, although the unofficial number may be anywhere between 20 to 80 million. With over 43% of the total domestic workers in India being urban women (NSSO 2010), Ghosh (2013) notes how this is indicative of the rise of a new affluent middle class, aspiring to hire help to support their lifestyles. Simultaneously, the need runs deep for the female domestic workers as well, resulting in a wave of urbanisation-led migration due to low employment prospects in rural India and uncertain household incomes. This has caused an astronomical increase in the supply of female domestic workers, presenting us with a peculiar market condition wherein they are dispensable yet indispensable to the lives of an urban Indian family.


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Updated On : 2nd Jan, 2023
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