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Domestic Workers Devaluation and Discrimination: State of Labour in Bangladesh 2014

Domestic Workers Devaluation and DiscriminationThe Unnayan Onneshan is a progressive think‐tank that undertakes research for advancing ideas and building constituencies for social transformation. The institute advances critical scholarship, promotes inter‐disciplinary dialogue and amplifies grassroots perspectives. The public‐interest research institute works in collaboration with national partners, international organisations and leading universities.

The Unnayan Onneshan was registered in 2003 as a not‐for‐profit trust to contribute towards search for solutions to endemic poverty, injustice, gender inequality and environmental degradation at the local, national and global levels. The philosophy and actions of the organisation focus on pluralistic, participatory, and sustainable development.

We seek to challenge the narrow theoretical and policy approaches derived from unitary models of development. The mission is to advance science‐led independent research, evidence‐based new approaches to public policies,     innovative     alternative     solutions     on     the     ground, and empowering capacity building and community‐based management for contributing towards progressive social transformation. The vision is an egalitarian world free     from all forms of inequality, injustices, discrimination and exploitation.

All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Any person or organization that does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

The State of Labour in Bangladesh 2014 is an annual publication of the Unnayan Onneshan, and the current number focuses on the domestic workers through conducting of a nation‐wide survey and unpacking of analytical issues on this segment of labour force, a first of its kind in Bangladesh.

The book contends to recognise domestic workers ‐ “live‐ins” and “live‐outs” ‐ as labourers and consequential entitlement of rights enshrined in core labour standards, debunking the orthodox euphemistic myths. Based upon ground realities, the research builds five analytical narratives that the domestic workers are (a) unseen, (b) engaged in production, not recipient of consumption goods, (c) involved in public spheres, despite functioning in private spaces, (d) not unique affective labourers, but toiling in employment relationship, and (e) exploited and high surplus value is extracted through wage differentials.

There is no regular flow of national statistics on domestic workers – men, women, children at home and non‐residents working abroad.

The    nation‐wide    survey    shows    that    devaluation    and discrimination have emerged as two major stylised facts as regards the state of domestic workers in Bangladesh and they are at victims of worst conditions in terms of wages, rights and entitlements in comparison with their counterparts working in other sectors in the economy. For example, the average wage of a domestic worker is 1.27 times less than that of the already depressed waged workers in agriculture and forestry. In addition to the persistent differentials of wage between domestic work and other informal and formal activities in the economy, unreasonable wage differentiations – between rural and urban, female and male, agriculture and industry – exist within the industry of domestic work, compelling the domestic workers to lead downcast lives.

Aggravated by the absence of legal and regulatory structure, the rights and wage differentiations within the industry of domestic work encompass ‐ overcrowding and undercutting. These erode the bargaining power of domestic workers, causing lowering of their wages and non‐observances of rights.

In order to rectify the exclusion of domestic workers they need to be classified as labourers in the law and to be ensured with minimum wage, payment for overtime, regular leisure and meal periods, healthy and safe work environments, no harassment and abuse at workplace, paid vacation, right to terminate the agreement of employment through notice and right to be organised.

This is a product of a team effort. We acknowledge valuable contribution from the young and energetic team members. Special thanks go to Abid Feroz Khan for copy editing. We also recognise the valuable services provided by Md. Abu Hossain, Azmol Hossain, and Nayeem Mohammad Firoz. We would also like to express gratitude to the staff of the Shrabon Prokashani, particularly its energetic publisher Robin Ahsan.

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