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BILS press conference on the research report on status and way forward to implement DWPWP, 2015

A study conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies-BILS in 2021 on domestic workers working in Dhaka city found that the average wage in a domestic worker is around 4,500 taka per month and 90 percent is less than 6,000. However, the average income of domestic workers who have technical training is better than that of untrained people. More than 99 percent of domestic workers do not have a written agreement with the employer. There is no provision for compensation for those injured in accidents at workplace. There is no provision for paid maternity leave. In addition, at least 28.2 percent of domestic workers’ wages were reduced during the Covid-19 period.

With the support of Oxfam in Bangladesh and Global Affairs Canada, the survey was conducted on 287 domestic workers under the “Sunity” project titled “Assessment of the implementation status of the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy and way forward”. Other organisations implementing the project include Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Hellotask, Nari Maitree, Red Orange and UCEP Bangladesh. Of those surveyed by BILS, 60 percent were non-residents (live out) and 40 percent were residential (live-in) domestic workers. This is to be mentioned that the Cabinet Division of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh approved the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy, 2015 in December 2015. It contains 18 provisions with a clear definition of the responsibilities of employers, employees and the government. However, the survey found that only 14 percent of domestic workers are aware of the policy announced by the government and their employers know nothing about it. The survey also found that 38.6 percent of residential domestic workers are less than 18 years of age.

The information was revealed at a press conference organised by BILS at the Press Club in the capital on September 12, 2021. BILS Advisory Council Member Naimul Ahsan Jewel read out a written statement at the press conference. Among others, Domestic Workers Rights Network (DWRN) Acting Coordinator Abul Hossain, Oxfam in Bangladesh Project Coordinator Geeta Rani Adhikari, Head of Research Mohammad Zakir Hossain Khan, Including leaders of project implementing organizations, domestic workers’ representatives and media representatives were present.

According to the written statement, 72.2 percent of domestic workers’ wages are determined by the type of work; In addition, 8.1 percent wages are set based on working hours and 8.1 percent through third parties. The wages of 20 percent of residential domestic workers are determined by mutual agreement; However, it is noteworthy that 13.6 percent of these residential domestic workers do not receive any wages, they only work in exchange for accommodation and food. However, the survey found that the average income of the domestic workers who took part in the training was better than that of the untrained and the domestic workers who received training on various electrical appliances or household items earned more than 9,000 taka, with an average wage of 4,629 Taka.

It further states that only 0.7 percent of domestic workers are employed in written agreements with employers. According to the results of the survey, most of the residential domestic workers (51.3 percent) were employed by their relatives and most of the non-resident domestic workers (43.4 percent) were employed by other domestic workers. In addition, 64% of domestic workers do not have any weekly or monthly leave.

At least 31.58 percent of residential and 36.42 percent of non-resident domestic workers said they had been forced to work against their will due to physical and mental stress, the written statement said. 41.23 percent of residential domestic workers and 24.86 per cent of non-residents said they had been abused. 50 percent of those under the age of 18 have been subjected to some form of harassment. Note that the Domestic Worker Protection and Welfare Policy, 2015 states, No form of indecent treatment or physical injury or mental torture may be inflicted on a domestic worker. However, according to the nature of work of domestic workers, their chances of making a complaint are very limited. The statement further said that the contribution of domestic workers in our country is not included in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Although workers in various formal sectors are covered by the welfare fund, there is no such specific fund for domestic workers.

In this study, the limitations identified in the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy, 2015 are: labour laws and non-recognition of domestic workers in GDP estimates, non-determination of minimum wages, absence of systematic statistics on domestic workers, formation of trade unions or associations, lack of policy awareness due to lack of media coverage and illiteracy, harassment, torture, lack of authority to take action for forced labour, lack of registration and information in law enforcement agencies, lack of effectiveness of monitoring cell and lack of social rights.

Recommended include recognizing domestic work as a profession as soon as possible, giving them the right to trade unions, taking government initiatives to gather information on the status of domestic workers in national surveys, and raising awareness about harassment complaints. And enable domestic workers to use helpline numbers, set up complaint centers for domestic workers, provide female police responsibilities and introduce one-stop-service at every ward/union level, increase the minimum wage of domestic workers in the garment sector, provide 50 percent festive bonus. Fixing the minimum wage by the government, providing at least 6 months paid leave during pregnancy and after childbirth and setting up of domestic labour training and development institutes etc. As mentioned at the press conference, policymakers and trade unions can work together to make recommendations for enhancing social security. These recommendations could include the Covid-19 crisis and its negative impact on domestic workers.