Over 2 Million Domestic Workers in Bangladesh Affected by COVID-19

Over two million domestic workers in Bangladesh have been worst affected by the corona virus pandemic as most of them have lost jobs and were denied wages during lockdown, activists claimed.

Since March, the domestic workers, mostly women, have been facing hardship in the capital city as well as across the country with no income amid lack of foods due to COVID-19 outbreak, they said.

Marking International Domestic Workers’ Day being observed on June 16, the activists demanded immediate economic support for the domestic workers and their families from the government.

They also urged the government of Bangladesh to immediately ratify the ILO convention 189 to ensure decent workers for the domestic workers.

Bangladesh National Domestic Workers Union general secretary Murshida Akter Nahar told Migration News that the domestic workers were doing informal jobs so they have been worst affected by the COVID-19.

‘There are 20 to 25 lakh domestic workers currently living in Dhaka city and many of them are denied wages during the lockdown,’ she said.

She also urged the government to immediately take steps for ratification of the ILO convention 189 to remove all kinds of discrimination against them.

Musrhida demanded government’s support for domestic workers to provide them sufficient foods and their house rents amid the pandemic situation.

Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra (BNSK) has recently conducted a study that found that about 96 per cent of women domestic workers have been facing physical violence.

About 56 per cent domestic workers who went to work for foods did not have used PPE, the study said.

BNSK executive director Sumaiya Islam told Migration News that during the COVID-19 outbreak her organization extended supports to affected domestic workers.

She urged the government to bring the domestic workers under social safety-net programme.

“Respect, recognize and remunerate them,” she echoed the slogan.

Who are domestic workers?

According to ILO, domestic workers comprise a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers. They work for private households, often without clear terms of employment, unregistered in any book, and excluded from the scope of labour legislation. Currently there are at least 67 million domestic workers worldwide, not including child domestic workers and this number is increasing steadily in developed and developing countries. Even though a substantial number of men work in the sector – often as gardeners, drivers or butlers – it remains a highly feminized sector: 80 per cent of all domestic workers are women.

Their work may include tasks such as cleaning the house, cooking, washing and ironing clothes, taking care of children, or elderly or sick members of a family, gardening, guarding the house, driving for the family, and even taking care of household pets.

At present, domestic workers often face very low wages, excessively long hours, have no guaranteed weekly day of rest and at times are vulnerable to physical, mental and sexual abuse or restrictions on freedom of movement. Exploitation of domestic workers can partly be attributed to gaps in national labour and employment legislation, and often reflects discrimination along the lines of sex, race and caste.


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