Incident Reports

Undocumented, domestic helps mired in low wages, exploitation- Samipa Khanal's Oped on Labor Rights


Gandaki, Kaski, Madi

Domestic workers, the most vulnerable unregistered workers of the labour community, who often work without clear terms of employment, are facing identity crisis and inferiority complex, stakeholders have said. Domestic workers say their work is not considered decent and since they are undocumented, they face hassles on an everyday basis. “We are often frowned upon and there is no way to address our woes,” said Rama Pandey, 36, who has been working for several families in the metropolis for the last 15 years. The Civil Code Amendment Bill and Labour Act Amendment Bill have incorporated some provisions to ensure the rights of domestic workers, but both are yet to be passed by Parliament. The Labour Act-1992 does not define informal workers as labourers. The Labour Act Amendment Bill, however, has a provision of “one employer and one worker policy” and seeks to bring domestic workers under “formal working group”. But Clause 88 (3) allows the employer to deduct money from the total wage if the employer provides food and accommodation, forcing domestic help into some sort of slavery. On top of that, wages for domestic help are determined on the basis of mutual understanding between the employer and the employee, and in most of the cases, the former has the upper hand.

Keshav Duwadi, secretary at the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), said the organisation imparts “special training” to domestic workers on their wages and rights. For eight hours of work, the minimum wage for domestic workers should be Rs9,700 per month. There are approximately 67 million domestic workers worldwide and 41 million of them are employed in Asian countries. Nepal has around 200,000 domestic workers, according to GEFONT. Nepal has ratified Domestic Workers Convention 189 of the International Labour Organization concerning decent work for the labourers. A report published by the ILO in January 2016 about its programme entitled “Decent Work Country Programme (2013-2017)” says that in April 2015, the government had endorsed and implemented new guidelines on the recruitment process of domestic workers in foreign employment. “Some employers even make us work for extended hours, but would not pay us accordingly,” said Ganga Subedi, 24. “We have nowhere to go.” Unless a new law is introduced to protect the rights of domestic workers, they will be forced to wallow in self-pity, she said.


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