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Friday, August 14, 2020

Why many domestic helps have not returned to work even after Unlock 1.0

The overall number of hirings of domestic helps have dropped significantly. The situation has not really changed much even after Unlock, say domestic help agencies.

Written by Disha Roy Choudhury | New Delhi | Updated: June 17, 2020 1:44:28 pm
domestic help, coronavirus Employers are hesitant to take back domestic helps amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Source: getty images)

With Unlock 1.0 being announced in the country, many people have started going back to their offices as others continue working from home. One group of professionals, however, have still not been able to return to work, even if many of them may desperately want to — the domestic helps.

With the lockdown being lifted, although some housing societies are allowing the entry of domestic helps while taking certain precautionary measures, there are still many who are hesitant to allow to resume their services for reasons ranging from safety to financial constraints.

Job loss

The prolonged lockdown period led to loss of job for domestic helps. Reshma Khan, assistant manager, Kaamwalijobs.com, a domestic help agency in Mumbai, told indianexpress.com, “From what we know, about 10 lakh domestic helps have lost their jobs in the past few months across the metro cities, including private drivers.”

While the morning-to-evening helps were barred from entry during the lockdown, some people also let go their full-time helps. One key reason for that was as people were working from home, they could invest their time in household chores. “Having a domestic help at home comes with a cost. Customers are finding it hard to afford a help when they are facing salary cuts or job loss themselves,” said Khan.

No demand for part-time helps during Unlock 1.0

Some housing societies permitted entry of helps from the last phase of lockdown itself. But in the Unlock 1 phase too, there is little demand for part time helps — those who go for work and return. “Part-time domestic helps have to travel everyday to their workplace, some in public transports, which means customers are unsure of who they are coming in contact with,” said Khan.

domestic help Domestic helps are among the worst hit, say hiring agencies. (representational image)

In the past few days, there have however been some queries about 24-hour helps at the agencies. Vinod Yadav, founder and CEO, Hire Help in India, based in Gurgaon, said, “These days we have a shortage of profiles due to coronavirus, but we are working on it, We will fix the issue as soon as possible. Mostly in the last few days we have received new requests from customers for domestic helps, but only full-time.”

Read| Have we been fair to our domestic helps in lockdown?

But there are challenges. Before enrolling or recruiting any help, the agencies have to verify that one is not coming from a containment zone. Many employers are now also demanding that the candidate undergoes a COVID-19 test before being hired. Agencies mostly provide resources for the test and ask the candidate to get it done.

Standard Maids, an agency in Bengaluru, is also doing temperature checks. “The candidate should be temperature-free and cough free. We are not entertaining anyone who has even slight cough. Apart from this if the customer wants to take a medical test, they can,” said the company’s director Nixon.

Besides, Hire Help in India is organising Zoom interviews for the employers and the helps.

For now, there are no requests for babysitters in Bengaluru, Nixon further informed. “People are all the more cautious when there is a baby in the house,” he said. Among those being hired are mostly housekeeping staff and a few others for elderly care or patient care.

But the overall number of hiring has dropped significantly. Kaamwalijobs, which would earlier provide jobs to nearly 200-300 helps monthly, has only had seven hiring in the past month. Standard Maids had 10. Hire Help in India, had only 36 hiring in the past two weeks after being shut since March, adding that their business was down. The situation has not really changed much even after Unlock, they say.

domestic help Many employers are now also demanding the candidate undergoes a COVID-19 test before being hired.

‘Domestic helps among the worst-hit’

With lack of jobs, many migrant domestic helps are reportedly leaving cities and returning home, which, in turn, has again led to their shortage. Several states recently saw a reverse migration of a huge number of workers in the absence of any means of livelihood. “The pandemic has affected all of us but domestic helps are perhaps among the worst hit. They hardly have any savings and by now they have exhausted whatever money they may have kept aside,” Khan, whose company is now distributing essential food items like rice, pulses, oil and salt to the domestic helps, expressed.

As for the agencies, there has hardly been any revenue generation. Some of the agencies that were contacted while writing this article were found to be temporarily shut. Business has been suffering majorly due to the pandemic and if things continue the way they are, many might have to shut down, agreed the spokespersons.

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