It’s 5 pm. Albisiya Kerketta, 23, is out shopping at DLF Galleria in Guragon. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, her hair hung loose, she has come to the market straight from her spoken English class. Later in the day, she plans to go to a movie with her roommates.
“I love fashion, movies and shopping,” says Kerketta in English, her voice wavering. “My English is poor but I have been learning the language for the past three years and hope to be fluent soon.”
Kerketta is a domestic help in Gurgaon.
She is one of the thousands of domestic workers who are radically different a typical ‘bai’— they are aspirational, seek their rights and are moving out of shanties to live in rented accommodation, thanks to rising employment standards.
Kerketta, who has studied till class 5, works from 8am to 2pm at a house in Gurgaon, cleaning and cooking. At 3pm, she goes to an English-speaking class. She is active on Facebook and updates her account with photos of parties with friends.
“I do not want to look like a poor exploited bai; I believe in looking good when I go to work. It creates good vibes at the house where I work. For me it’s just any other employment,” says Kerketta, who earns about Rs 9,000 per month for six hours of work a day.
Karketta has an ‘appointment letter’ that mentions her salary, her working time, the leaves — four weekly offs, holiday on national festivals and 10 sick leaves . She gets a conveyance allowance and commutes to work by auto.
She got a job through The Maids’ Company , one of the many new players changing the dynamics of the domestic work sector through training. They find jobs for domestic workers who want to be seen as employees, not servants.
“Young girls from rural areas entering the domestic workforce in cities already have exposure to urban environment through television and other mediums. They seek rights and dignity and we ensure that they get them. A lot of young domestic female workers now live in PG accommodation like any other young working girls,” said Gauri Singh, founder of The Maids’ Company.
The demand for trained workforce has led to better pay — anything between Rs 9,000 and Rs 18,000 per month depending on skill, location and working hours.
Reshma Jamadar, 22, gave up her job as a sales girl to work as a nanny six months back.
“I worked as a sales girl at a Metro station in Gurgaon where I earned about Rs 8,000 per month. Now I earn almost twice that amount, get a 10% hike every year and have a pick-and-drop facility. But eventually I want to work as a receptionist at a big company,” says Reshma, who has studied till class 10.
Many of these workers have bank accounts and health insurance. Sangeeta Chaudhury, 26, who works in Kailash Colony in south Delhi, earns Rs 18,000. Her company, has given her health insurance for Rs 1 lakh, she says.
“Before I underwent training for cooking and housekeeping, I earned Rs 7,000. I deposit my salary in my bank and try to save as much as I can for my children,” says Chaudhury who lives in Gandhi Colony in south Delhi in a two-room rented house. She is an employee of GDH Workforce, the company that trained and placed her.
Anjana Kumari came to Delhi from Nepal three years ago and started working for Rs 5,000. Six months back, she got a job through a website for blue-collar jobs. “Now I earn Rs 17,000, travel by Metro and get Rs 1,500 as conveyance allowance. I want to be a house manager,” says Anjana, who lives in Jasola and works in Andrews Ganj.
Many online players such Babajobs and Nanojobs serve as marketplaces for blue-collar jobs, connecting job-seekers to employers.
Then there are other companies such as The Maids’ Company, GDH Workforce and Help For Comfort that work both offline and online, train and place domestic workers. They claim to have created new avenues for ‘professional growth’ of workers. A domestic help, they say, can rise to become a cook, a speciality cook, a training supervisor and even a house manager with corresponding rise in perks and salary.
“Many domestic workers who got employed through us as maids rose through the ranks to become house managers. We are trying to increase employability of semi-literate and illiterate domestic workers and offer them growth,” says Murali Bukkapatanam, who founded GDH Workforce, a company that provides ‘professionally trained helpers for households’ in Delhi and Hyderabad. “Salaries for domestic workers in Delhi-NCR are much higher than in Hyderabad.”
Many of these companies have training facilities to hone the skills of workers in housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, childcare, health & hygiene, etiquette, kitchen hygiene, and safe food storage. GDH has its training centre in Dwarka and Help For Comfort has a facility in Mundka.
“We have a database of one lakh workers and we run a strict check on the people we hire and place. We train about 50 domestic workers every day at our training facility in job specific ecosystem. The candidates who clear the final training assessment are recruited. They are our employees,” says Navpreet Singh Randhawa, co-founder Help For Comfort.
Certainly, domestic workers are happy that they are someone’s ‘employees’.