52.6 m domestic workers worldwide, highest in Asia: ILO

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 10, 2013

There are 52.6 million domestic workers worldwide, and 83 per cent of these are women, accounting for 7.5 per cent of women’s global wage employment. Of the total, 21.5 million are in Asia alone, with India and China accounting for a significant proportion, says a new ILO report


What’s more disturbing is that 30 per cent of this crucial lifeline that supports the ‘productive’ workforce -- cleaning and cooking, caring for children, the elderly, sick and so on – is not covered by national labour laws, says the International Labour Organsiation (ILO) report released on Wednesday.


The report, for the first time, captures the size of the domestic work sector worldwide, but has excluded child domestic workers below the age of 15, whose number was estimated by ILO at 7.4 million in 2008.


The high number of domestic women workers in Asia at 41 per cent, followed by 37 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean, is a reflection of cheap labour availability in these regions. 


The report noted the lack of data in many countries, especially India and China. For instance, it found no clarity on the figure for India as there were huge discrepancies between official estimates and those from other sources, such as academics and NGOs. While one estimate put the figure at 90 million, another using household data said there were only 2.5 million domestic workers (in 2008), but these excluded gardeners, gatekeepers, watchmen and the residual category of “other workers” employed by private households.


As per an analysis of the micro-data, the ILO report put the number of domestic workers in India at 4.2 million in 2004-05, representing 1 per cent of total employment, adding that there could be some margin of error. Estimates for 2009-10 by the Labour Bureau, however, put the figure at 2.7 per cent of all employed persons. The report commended the Labour Ministry for drafting a comprehensive National Policy for Domestic Workers.


“Domestic workers are frequently expected to work longer hours than other workers and in many countries do not have the same rights enjoyed by other workers,’ said Sandra Polaski, ILO Deputy Director-General, calling for basic labour rights for this section of workers, such as reasonable working hours, weekly rest, freedom of association among others.


Published on January 10, 2013

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