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Work shield for Indian maids abroad

Come September and employers in 18 countries will have to pay a minimum wage of $250 to hire a household service worker of Indian origin, reports Nandini R Iyer.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2007 04:47 IST
Nandini R Iyer

Come September and employers in 18 countries will have to pay a minimum wage of $250 or Rs 10,000 to hire a household service worker of Indian origin.

The norm will cover “ABCD workers” — ayahs, butlers, cooks and drivers — employed in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Libya, Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Brunei, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The eighteenth country is Iraq, and the norm will be enforced as and when India permits citizens to go and work there.

“Indians, especially women, who go abroad as unskilled workers are terribly vulnerable. They receive a pittance as salary and are at the mercy of their employers. And unlike office jobs, they are confined to their employers’ homes. So we thought it was time to bring in measures to protect them,” Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi told HT.

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has fixed this minimum wage based on two computations, said joint secretary G. Gurucharan. “The Philippine government, the largest provider of household service workers, has set its minimum wage at $400. In India, a person working in a similar capacity would be paid between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000. So, we arrived at $250 because it is well over what people receive here and at the same time not so high as to be a deterrent to potential employers.”

The ministry also has a slew of other measures — which would come into place on September 1 — designed to protect women household workers from exploitation. They cover women whose passports are marked ECR (emigration check required). “The employer will have to register a copy of the work contract with the Indian mission in that country. The mission will conduct an employer verification process. Only after this will the contract be attested by the Indian embassy and sent to the employee in India,” Ravi said.

To ensure these requirements do not just remain on paper, the ministry is proposing to start a monitoring mechanism. In addition, a helpline will be started for those whose contracts are being violated.