Impact of Covid-19 lockdown on domestic workers in India, 24th March to 4th May 2020

FOCUS

This report was published by the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) in August 2020. It studies the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on domestic workers across India, specifically after the first lockdown which began in March 2020. The report highlights the problems faced by the women workers and their families.

The publication contains the results of a nationwide survey conducted from the beginning of May until the middle of June 2020, with 1,726 respondents across 11 states, spread over 55 districts. It was carried out online as well as physically. The survey’s objective was to capture the impact of the first lockdown, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, 2020. The report notes that states began allowing domestic workers to resume work only after May 4.

The report discusses the “profile, income and work status” of the respondents before the lockdown, contrasting it with the lockdown’s impact on their income and employment. It highlights the harassment of domestic workers by the police, the increase in cases of domestic violence during the pandemic, and the impact – if any – of government schemes and relief measures on the respondents’ lives.

This 14-page report is divided into six chapters: Introduction (chapter 1); The survey and its methodology (chapter 2); Economic condition of domestic workers before lockdown (chapter 3); The impact of Covid on women’s work (chapter 4); Impact of state policy and measures (chapter 5); and Impact on health and domestic violence (chapter 6).

    FACTOIDS

  1. India had about 7.79 million domestic workers as of 2017-18, over 85 per cent of whom are women.

  2. Most women who participated in the survey were between 30-50 years of age. About 282 participants (17 per cent) were unmarried and the sole earners in their households prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  3. Over half of the women workers surveyed lived in rented accommodation. Many of them belonged to migrant households or families with no land of their own.

  4. As high as 78 per cent of the survey participants earned less than Rs. 5,000 per month, and 23 per cent earned less than Rs. 2,000. The average monthly income for domestic workers from Maharashtra and Karnataka was more than Rs. 5,000 – Maharashtra led with an average income of Rs. 8,045, followed by Rs. 5,317 in Karnataka. On the other hand, domestic workers from Jharkhand earned the lowest average monthly income among the 11 states, at only Rs. 1,985.

  5. Almost all the women surveyed worked in more than one house and travelled over two kilometres every day to go to work. More than 80 per cent of the domestic workers walked to work.

  6. Most respondents found it difficult to resume work May onwards. This was primarily because of the ‘general fear and panic’ due to government directives and the media, as well as the reluctance of employers and resident welfare associations to allow domestic workers to return. After May 5, 2020, about 44 per cent of the surveyed women were unable to find any work at all, and about 10 per cent got to resume work partly.

  7. About 65 per cent of respondents suffered a significant loss of income in March 2020, when the lockdown was announced. As high as 41 per cent did not receive any wages at all and 24 per cent received only part of their wages for the month.

  8. Roughly 75 per cent of the respondents faced income losses in April 2020 – 61 per cent did not get any wages at all while 13 per cent received only a part of their wages.

  9. As high as 70 per cent of the surveyed women reported that their spouses did not have any income in the months of March and April 2020.

  10. About 28 per cent of the respondents took loans during May-June 2020. In Andhra Pradesh, 62 per cent of respondents reported taking loans, showing the popularity of microfinance institutions in the region.

  11. The states with the highest percentage of women with no ration cards were West Bengal (74 per cent) and Haryana (72 per cent). Around 70 per cent of the respondents and their households had ration cards.

  12. The report states that 53 per cent of the domestic workers received no support from any central or state government scheme during the survey period. In the states of Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra and West Bengal, about two-thirds of the women and their families received no financial support.

  13. About 17 per cent of the survey participants were widows, and only five per cent availed of widow pensions.

  14. Over a fifth of the domestic workers surveyed reported an increase in instances of domestic violence at home. States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh reported a rise in these cases after the reopening of liquor shops.


    Focus and factoids by Abizar Shaikh.

AUTHOR

All India Democratic Women's Association

COPYRIGHT

All India Democratic Women's Association

PUBLICATION DATE

06 Aug, 2020

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