Treatment of domestic servants in Pakistan
There is a growing trend of engaging domestic help, particularly in cities. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 74 per cent of the labour work force is engaged in the informal sector, of which domestic workers are the biggest chunk.
Yet despite that, there are no clear laws to guarantee domestic workers their rights as they do not fall under the social security net. However, the following laws apply in certain cases.
A research study, conducted by Islamabad-based research firm Insights Research Consultants (IRC), used a sample of 1,460 respondents including 260 parents of DCWs, 400 employers, and 800 CDWs between seven and 15 years old.
“One of the things that motivated us to conduct the study was the sudden spate in violent torture that resulted in the death of several girls working as maids in various urban and semi-urban cities’, said IRC CEO Nadeem Saleem.
The study was conducted in seven cities — Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan and Peshawar.
Abusive and exploitative working conditions
The study revealed that the working conditions of 79 per cent of respondents were “oppressive” and they were often subjected to unusually long working hours — 16 to 17 hours every day — without adequate rest or breaks.
The tasks they must perform are not consistent with their age or physical abilities, the report says, adding that they are also paid very low wages.
In fact, two per cent of respondents said they were not paid any wages at all and worked for only room and board.
According to the study, 68 per cent of the respondent mentioned that they had been harassed by their employers once or twice, while 33 per cent said that they left their workplaces due to threats of sexual harassment and 67 per cent said they did not know about their rights or what to do if they were ever f sexually harassed.
According to the study, 45 per cent of respondents said that they were not being allowed to meet their parents or family members during working hours.
Some 70 per cent of the children said that they lived in servant quarters with minimum facilities, while the other 30 per cent said they were living in furnished rooms.
According to the findings of the study, 92 per cent of the children expressed a desire to go to schools, while 67 per cent shared that they had dropped out and started working due to poverty.
In 39 per cent of cases, employers were providing basic education or skills training, and also helped girl servants monetarily when they reach marrying age.
On the other hand,
48 per cent of employers complained that the
CDWs were either stealing money or food, and would disappear without informing them.
The research also indicates that salient features of domestic child labour carry serious concerns in terms of potential psychosocial impacts which may be temporary or long lasting.
The study recommends establishing a workable and reliable framework while taking into consideration the grievances of employers as well as CDWs.
“The dormant and ineffective legislation needs to be revisited to safeguard the rights of the CDWs as well as the employers, establish clear penalties for exploitation, and define minimum wages and allowances, besides defining maximum working hours and weekly off.