CHENNAI: The minimum wages set for domestic workers by the State Labour department last month are much below market standards and may lead to exploitation of labourers in remote areas, opine labour activists.
A house maid who sweeps, washes clothes and vessels, mops, takes care of children in a remote area is eligible to demand only about `5,580, even if she works two hours in three houses. “Many women who do domestic work in rural areas are often single mothers, widowed or come from broken families. It becomes extremely hard for them to support a family under that budget for a whole month,” said R Geetha of the Federation of Unorganised Workers.
The Labour and Employment Department, through an order on August 17, has fixed the minimum wages for employment in domestic work. The rates range from `31 to `39 per hour, depending on the level of skill and the location of their work. For example, a house-hold domestic worker in a corporation area will get `37 an hour and the same worker will get `31 an hour in a remote area that doesn’t come under corporations or municipalities.
Most domestic workers in urban areas get paid reasonably well and the minimum wages may not really affect them. “However, bonded labourers and other vulnerable domestic workers in remote areas are often exploited and paid very poorly. The minimum rates of wage will affect them the most,” said KR Renuka, director of Centre for Women’s Development and Research.
A gardener, who toils eight hours a day in an area that doesn’t fall under a corporation or municipality, is eligible to demand only `6,650 a month, even if he or she is asked to perform one or more of other unskilled domestic works like cleaning.
New Delhi and Kerala have set their rates of minimum wages around `70 an hour, when Tamil Nadu offers only about half of that.TA Latha from the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said that trade unions had recommended a minimum wage of around `50 an hour at least.
According to the August 17 order, the minimum wages for domestic workers range from `31 to `39 per hour, depending on their skill level and location of the work