Ban on Domestic-Helper Hiring – The Interdependence Between India’s Poor and Wealthy

India’s lockdown mandates included a ban on the hiring of helpers who report for work on a daily basis as one way of preventing the spread of the coronavirus. While staying-in with an employer was an option, it was not feasible on the part of the domestic helpers. The arrangement would have barred them from seeing their family during the lockdown.

The interdependence between the affluent middle-class and the poor people who lived in India’s slum areas was underscored during lockdown. Although many middle-class households found the ban reasonable, they still met with difficulty in adapting to the change. As far as domestic chores are concerned, most middle-class households have been largely dependent on the services of local helpers. In fact, they never had the need to buy a washing machine, since getting someone to do the clothes washing does not cost a lot.

According to India’s labor statistics, India’s middle and upper-class families have not had a shortage of supply in their demand for a domestic helper. The official labor report indicates that an estimated four million Indian citizens living in city slums, can easily find work as domestic helpers to the well-heeled folks of India. However, unofficial reports state that the actual figures are much higher, as the realistic number of citizens working as household helpers-for-hire could be as many as 50 million people.

Many freelance helpers found the ban unfair as it readily identified the poor people of India as potential spreaders of the COVID-19 disease. The true sentiment though is that as India’s leading gig workers, the ban had deprived them of an important source of income, being their respective family’s means for their daily subsistence.

Government’s Lifting of the Ban Became a Debatable Issue Among India’s Middle Class

In May, the lockdown period was extended for two weeks due to the severity by which the COVID-19 disease has been spreading throughout the country. However, the government thought it best to lift the ban on the hiring of helpers, presumably to help the millions of Indian citizens faced with the loss of employment, especially during a period of economic and health crisis.

Yet many former employers were not too willing to open their doors to domestic helpers as the risk of transmissions was still high. Yet in Mumbai, municipal health officials reported that the daily reported infection had gone down as they have applied considerable effort in tracing, tracking, testing and isolating the many who could have transmitted further in the deeply congested slum areas of the city.

However, not a few of the affluent people still deemed it best to isolate themselves against possible infections, wary that the measures being taken were not as sustainable during bad weather conditions. Middle-class households who have elderly people to care for, were likewise hesitant to hire a helper despite the convenience presented by the option.

Automated Appliances is the Better Option at the Moment

After managing to adjust with the lack of a domestic helper by buying automated cleaning equipment, vacuum cleaners, automated dishwashers and other kitchen appliances, including automatic washing machines, majority of India’s upper and middle class households are currently not entertaining the idea of using outside help for the time being.

Nowadays, buying a washing machine in india which is fully automatic is the most recommended. Although it’s the more expensive type, its advanced inverter technology has made it possible to eliminate the need to manually scrub off normal dirt and sweat that typically come with dirty clothes. That way, even the younger family members can help by doing their own laundry.

Jackalyn Feliks