Minimum fallout

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Published: February 2, 2016 12:49:15 AM

Before fixing a minimum wage for domestic workers, govt must ensure it doesn’t affect their employability.

While having a minimum wage for household help is laudable conceptually—domestic workers, as do other unorganised sector workers, often face deep income insecurity—governments will need to first test if the figures they have in mind don’t end up dampening their employment prospects. Rajasthan, for instance, has just fixed the minimum wage for an 8-hour work day at R5,642 per month, with provisions for overtime payment—and this will be exclusive of food, clothes, accommodation and other perks. The Centre, too, reportedly has been working on a national policy for domestic workers that fixes the minimum monthly wage at R9,000 (for a full work-day of 8 hours), along with paid leave and social security provisions.

A minimum wage for household help can, no doubt, potentially regularise a large section of unorganised sector workers, and such regularisation could perhaps help, given its link with human trafficking, cut down exploitation. At the same time, blanket minimum wages could make it difficult for many families that hire help today, making them either consider dropping it as an option or limiting the use of such labour, thereby directly affecting the levels of employment of such workers. With the cost of living varying between cities, hiring a help could become unaffordable even within a state with minimum wage rules. Besides, metropolitan households rely on intermediary “agencies” to hire help, and in such cases, the payment of the wages is routed through the agency. So, if the agency violates minimum wage norms, it leaves the employers vulnerable to penalty even if that may not seem warranted.

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