While the coronavirus may only have infected a certain percentage of the population, its financial impact has hardly spared any across the country. From a business tycoon to a street vendor, from a man in a plush mansion to one dwelling in a shanty, from an employer to an employee, and from a landlord to a tenant — everybody has taken a financial hit. But there are some unfortunate segments of the working class that have been shattered to the core. Among them are the household maids and servants who are bearing the brunt of their employers adopting social distancing practices and public transport vanishing from the roads due to a countrywide lockdown to contain the mushrooming virus.
Even in normal situations, household workers are not treated on a par with the rest of the working class. They are not recongnised as labourers by any relevant government organisation, and do not enjoy whatever limited facilities the factory workers do. An overwhelming majority of such household workers have to work even on festivals like Eid as well as government holidays. Let alone any annual leaves, even a weekly off is denied in some cases. And any overtime or a bonus is just unthinkable for them. If at all, they get any extra money in the form of alms rather than their right.
The coronavirus lockdown has descended upon these household maids and servants like something from hell. The government has been doing whatever it can to reach out to those in need in its limited capacities. Charity organisations are also trying to cater to their needs. But the responsibility of their caretaking falls squarely with those as well who have employed their services. Household workers must continue to draw their full monthly salaries irrespective of the amount of work they have put in. The government, meanwhile, must also devise a system to register them and prepare regulations to formalise their jobs.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2020.
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