Jharkhand may have fixed the minimum wage for domestic workers in 2011, but acute poverty, a job crisis and a lack of awareness have compelled them to work for as little as one-fifth the amount, claim activists.
According to the state labour department, the minimum wage at present is Rs 212 per day for eight hours of work, which translates to Rs 5,512 per month. However, more than half the domestic workers in the state do not get wages on a par with the decided amount, claims activist Fr Chetan, who works for National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM).
As per the labour reform, the minimum wage is revised every six month — on April 1 and October 1.
The domestic workers in the state, a majority of who stay at city slums or migrate from nearby villages to work in urban households, say that the low wages have forced many to migrate to metros like Delhi and Mumbai, where the wages are much higher.
“Despite all our efforts, a majority of domestic workers here do not get the minimum wage. A lack of awareness and poverty are among the major reasons for this sorry state,” said Fr Chetan.
However, due to the large population of uneducated young girls in semi-urban and rural areas, job opportunities are few and many are willing to work as domestic helps.
“If we demand the minimum wage of `5,000 a month, employers will ask us to leave and get another maid for less than half the price,” said Poonam Kumari, a domestic help from Bundu village, who works in a posh Ranchi locality.
“We do receive complaints from domestic helps about poor payment by employers. Many cases have also been addressed in the past. We can help only when they come to us with their problems,” said state labour commissioner Praveen Toppo.
Another provision in the state, though positive on paper, has not been brought into use on paper. The state social security board, with the support of the labour department, in 2015 issued guidelines for making payment of minimum wage compulsory to domestic workers who had ID cards provided by the board.
However, the National Domestic Workers’ Movement claims that close to 2,000 domestic workers have had ID cards issued, but work for lesser wages.
“I don’t have an identity card. Many of my friends do, but their income is same as mine, so what is the point of getting an ID card made?”asks Rekha Negi, who works in Ranchi.
There are around two lakh domestic workers in Jharkhand, with 20,000 in Ranchi alone.