Facilitating Our Lives: How Much Do We Rely On Our Domestic Help?
Gone are the days when roti, kapda and makaan were the only basic necessities of life. These days, the domestic help who rolls out that roti, washes the kapda and cleans the makaan has literally become our lifeline. The monumental role they play in the Indian household can be gauged by the fact that their absence for even a single day paralyses the functioning of the household completely.
Ridhi Malhotra, mother of two children and living in Delhi, calls her maid her lifeline. “Besides cleaning the house, she also cooks lunch for my kids when they return home from school. It is because of her that I am able to work without any worries.”
She adds that she dreads days when she decides to take an off. “But even she is a human being and can have personal issues.”
According to a research, the mushrooming growth of this industry stems from the fact that 73 per cent of working women in India are illiterate or educated only up to primary level because of which domestic work is the only available form of work for unskilled women like them.
Poor service conditions
Because it is unskilled labour, maids are often underpaid. For instance, maids in Kolkata are paid as little as Rs 5,000 per month. The situation is similar in all major states. However, a number of campaigns are being initiated to elevate their status. A bill to provide Karnataka’s domestic workers with a minimum monthly salary of Rs 9,000 ($140) and benefits, including social security cover and mandatory time off, is awaiting approval in parliament.
Maids have become a cornerstone of the emerging urban milieu that’s witnessing more and more women entering the workforce and they rely heavily on domestic help for striking that desirable “work-life balance”.
Rashi Goel, an economics student, feels that maids have now become an important member of nuclear families. She shares, “The maid is perhaps the most important part of the family since our entire day is scheduled as per her ‘visiting hours’. At what time we can leave our house for a getaway on a weekend is determined by what time the maid arrives.”
The bossy domestic help
Yes, there is a category of domineering maids that work according to their own rules and regulations. Dealing with them can be quite an uphill task. Talking about how annoying these can be, Delhi resident Ranjana Gupta says, “I have been struggling to find a good maid for many months now. They charge a huge amount of money but the quality of work they do is not good. At times, I am the one directing her about how everything needs to be done.”
She also adds how important it is to keep an eye on them every time.
Home service apps providing maids
Due to the heavy demand for maids, a lot of agencies are helping working women in finding reliable maids. Apps are also tapping the demand and giving a much needed professional edge to the industry. These apps offer both on-demand as well as replacements for domestic services.
“A lot of our clients are working women who hire domestic help as they need someone to look after their house, their children or the elderly parents. It makes it easier for them to concentrate on their work. They don’t need to rush home because they know there is someone to take care of everything.”
He further adds that the app comes with service guarantee that the maids will not take leave. Their background check is also done before recommending them to a client.
“We have a total database of around 1 lakh maids. Out of these, I believe around 25,000 have been placed already in the last 2 years,” he says.
Are robots the answer?
Given the hi-tech world we live in, it may not be too far fetched to say that in a few years, robots may well replace the domestic help. The Japan Robot Association has reportedly predicted that by 2025, the personal robot industry that stands at $5 billion today, will be worth more than $50 billion a year globally.
For instance, Japan-based Seven Dreamers has reportedly come out with a prototype of a wonder robotic tool, ‘Laundroid’, that will do your laundry, neatly fold it and even place the clothes on shelves. Sounds fascinating?
Well, if this is the future, you may be able to bid adieu to your bai. But as long as cheap labour is available in India, becoming completely independent of maids is still a distant dream.
Image credits: DNA India
Charvi Is An Intern With SheThePeople.TV