Our peripatetic Prime Minister recently choked up on one of his visits abroad. He was talking about his mother and her years of working as a domestic help.
Following that emotional outpouring, reams were written, and much space given to the fact that maids and other domestic workers in India continue to be ill-treated, badly paid and treated with little respect.
Actually change is happening. As Indian cities such as Bengaluru become home to richer, double-income individuals, the benefits are passing on—to the domestic help.
Take for instance, a luxury apartment complex in Bengaluru or even a gated community, where individual houses/apartments/villas are priced at Rs 2 crore upwards. Most of these come with accommodation for live-in maids/nannies/domestic help/drivers. And the salaries on offer–Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000 a month. Even more, in some cases. A friend of mine recently moved into one such luxury accommodation and vouches for the salaries.
Yes the hours are long, the work can be exhausting, the holidays are limited (one day off a week for regular maids/help, two days off for live-in ones). But there is good pay at the end of it all. Which is more than what lakhs and lakhs of domestic help, or daily wage earners and other low-skilled workers in our country now receive. And let’s not even talk what happens to minors working as nannies/help.
But the interesting thing is that today, there are many start-ups in the domestic services sector and for a fee, these companies will provide you domestic help who have been vetted (police verification) and appropriately trained.
When an agency or start-up gets into the business of providing domestic help, the plus point (for the help) is that salary structures and rates are set in place. And often, the company involved will provide you the rates if you contact them or register with them. One of the most interesting start-ups or ventures in this area is Rathi Rana’s http://www.housemaidforyou.com
Rana, a Bengalurean and a former flight attendant, has, in interviews, described her venture a social enterprise. Her start-up considers enrolled domestic workers as “regular employees” and provides them benefits such as ESI, Provident Fund and group medical insurance. In this particular case, if you register and employ one of Rana’s workers, you should pay the salary to the company via bank transfer every month. The company then pays the individual worker. Rana’s start-up has a Facebook page which means, those who employ her workers can also give their feedback, be it good or bad, on the page. You can read more about her through her website or simply google her name.
Of course, fake agencies abound. Which means, if you are looking to hire an agency worker, you need to do your homework, seek references, so on and so forth. And be prepared to pay more than you would for someone who comes from your locality.
Also, the fact remains that while people like Rana may aim to better the lives of domestic workers, she cannot control how domestic help are treated (or ill-treated) at their places of work.
That is up to each one of us.