Pandemic hit domestic workers hard: study

Domestic workers are staring at increased job and financial insecurity induced by the pandemic crisis, according to findings of a research done by faculty members at the Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur among women in Kochi, Mumbai and Delhi.

The major short-term impact of the pandemic is reported as difficulty in payment of rents and draining away of savings while the long-term impact includes job and financial insecurity, said B.S. Sumalatha (Department of Economics), Lekha D. Bhat (Department of Epidemiology and Public Health), and K.P. Chitra (Department of Social Work) in their paper titled ‘Impact of COVID-19 on the Informal Sector: A Study of Women Domestic Workers in India’ published in the Indian Economic Journal on June 25.

Nearly 260 domestic workers in Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi were interviewed as part of the study held between August and November last.

“Debts increased for 10% of the families and more than 11% families were forced to sell their personal assets for survival. About 57% domestic workers reported stigma and discrimination at workplace, and 40% worked without any safety measures,” the paper said.

It was found that 35% of the respondents managed the household expenses with the reduced income whereas 24.2% families made use of the existing savings to meet their needs. About 44 families (17%) are taking help in cash/kind from immediate relatives, while 49 families (18.8%) are managing the household expenses with funds borrowed from moneylenders

About 50.4% experienced reduced salary, increased workload or both together. They felt that employers consciously tried to exploit their vulnerability and exercised their bargaining power to negotiate and reduce salaries or increase the workload with the same salary. This generated a feeling of helplessness among the workers, the research revealed.

The respondents reported an increase in domestic violence (25%), increase in household workload (42.3%), increase of stress in marital relationship (12.7%) and loss of self-respect due to job loss (8.5%). More than 90% of the domestic workers reported anxiety as a mental health condition.

The inter-State analysis showed that more women (69) from Kochi reported increase in household workload, whereas women from Mumbai (30) and New Delhi (26) reported increase in instances of domestic violence.

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