The Tribune - Spectrum

, March 17, 2002

Multidisciplinary study of maidservants’ lives
Ashu Pasricha

Women Domestic Workers' Socio-Economic Life
by A. N. Singh. Shipra Publications, New Delhi. Pages 144. Rs. 380

IN the history of mankind, the participation of woman in work cannot be regarded as recent one; indeed it is as old as the human history itself. The nature as well as our social system have assigned them the most beautiful and the prestigious work i.e. production and nurture of their young ones who will secure and promote our future. Their experienced potential, family management and human resource development strategies in this regard are very much known to us and visible from generation to generation. It is truly stated that there is always a woman behind the success of a man. Woman's role, responsibility in different capacities like sister, mother and wife has been found quite remarkable in the experiences of human kind.

Beyond this, nowadays, they are found to be associated with their counterparts—male—in almost every area of work. Their output in the field of work participation is in no way inferior. What women need at the moment, to promote their future, is to have proper education and training. In this regard, once Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru rightly stated: "To awaken the people, it is the woman who must be awakened; once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves."


Once a famous Chinese pointed out that "if you want to plan for a year' plant wheat, if you want to plan for 10 years grow trees but if you want to plan for 100 years educate your women." However, in spite of the best efforts made from time to time by the government, voluntary welfare agencies and academicians in the field, the desired change is still behind.

The book is an outcome of multidisciplinary investigation into the dynamics of working life, family adjustment of maidservants and their approaches to be adopted for their resource development. It attempts to focus on the problem of working mothers in general and women domestic workers in particular. The book deals with the socio-economic milieu of the people, especially woman being forced to undertake domestic work, their present working conditions, family life and effect of work on their health as told by women workers themselves and their employers with the help of separately structured interview schedule and case studies. All these facts have been scientifically stated with the help of statistical techniques supported by observation and case studies on the subject.

The present descriptive-cum-diagnostic study mainly attempts to focus on the socio-economic life of women domestic workers, working in one or more families for wages. It highlights the working conditions, family and work place adjustment and after effect of work, etc. The information used in discussion has been mainly obtained from the field with the help of structured and duly pre-listed interview schedules separately prepared for domestic workers and their employers.

Subjects interviewed in this study have been randomly selected from different wards of Kurukshetra, Haryana. Discussion in different chapters is based on the obtained information and personal observations of the researcher. Besides, the case studied presented in the report highlight overall profile of the issue. Since the area of study is dominated by Hindu families, except a few, the majority of women/girl domestic workers are Hindu.

Unlike workers employed in organised sector and enjoying better conditions of work, women domestic workers in the area of study are far behind — they neither get satisfactory wage nor job security. Keeping in mind their workload in a house for a day or so, their wage rate should be fixed. Similarly, job security for a double period of time needs to be fixed.

There should be proper identification of the persons toiling as domestic workers so that in case of any loss or other problems, they can be interviewed for necessary inquiries.

The socio-economic development projects (as already started under the child labour welfare projects in some specific areas in the country) in backward and urban poor areas need to be introduced and uncovered areas may be covered under the introduced programme. This kind of attempt on the one hand will help the poor and destitute women to become economically self-reliant and their children, will find adequate opportunity and freedom to grow in their developing years instead of being forced into labour market for supplementing the family income.

This work should be useful for students/scholars of sociology, economics, social work and allied subjects and also to voluntary welfare organisations and government departments in decision making and implementation of their programmes.