Envisioning power and rights for domestic workers

14 Mar 2018
Envisioning power and rights for domestic workers

Millions of men and women, including children around the world, are employed as laborers and domestic workers. They clean, cook, drive, care for children, look after elderly family members and perform other essential tasks for their employers. Despite their important role in society, they are often amongst the most exploited and abused workers in the world.

Domestic help in Pakistan earn a low wage, work volatile hours, receive few benefits and have little or no prospects for career growth. They are even often locked and bound to their workplace and are subject to emotional, physical and even sexual abuse. In 2016 we heard the terrible tale of Tayabba – an underage domestic worker who had been tortured at the home of a judge in Islamabad. In March 2017, two new cases of tortured female domestic workers, one in Multan and another one in Islamabad, were exposed. These are just some of the few cases highlighted in media recently- we all know that there are many more.

Domestic and labor work is physically and emotionally draining. Domestic workers are often imposed with tasks without their consent, such as staying late with little or no notice and sometimes without the extra pay. It takes body and soul to endure such a job. Domestic workers deserve respect, recognition and societal inclusion with labor protection laws that grant them a full set of basic human rights. We should work towards creating a just society for all domestic workers and laborers, where they are treated with dignity and justice, their rights are upheld, their contribution recognized, and their voices heard. They must be given overtime rate of pay for their added duties and skills along with rest periods, sick leaves and personal days. Furthermore, to envision a society where child domestic work is completely abolished, we must work towards providing education to those children rather than involving them in laborious work.

One of the main reasons for this form of employment being susceptible to exploitation is that this service largely remains to be in the informal sector. There are no written contracts and no fixed wage structures for full-time or live-in employees in this line of work. Neither are there are any job qualifications that a worker needs to obtain to enter into this job market. TAFF- Vocational Training Institute aims to change that through their ‘Cooking & Housekeeping’ course. Students who are enrolled in this course are given 3.5 months of training and are subsequently placed into employment through a legal contract that is facilitated by the TAFF-VTI placement center. The contract includes the number of hours, salary, probation and notice period, overtime clause and all other aspects of a standard employment contract. This contract ensures the rights of the employers and employees are protected under the law.

This is the first step in formalizing a very important yet so far neglected sector in Pakistan. TAF Foundation is committed to promoting and ensuring participation of skilled domestic workers in the labor market. Since they support us in keeping our households safe, immaculate and maintained, they deserve to have their fundamental human rights upheld by their employers and society.