Domestic Workers in Pakistan

Domestic work is part of the huge informal sector in Pakistan. Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance governs the domestic workers rights.

Is there any law in Pakistan, which governs domestic workers?

Domestic work is part of the huge informal sector (around 73% of total Pakistani economy, as indicated by official sources) and thus the existing labor laws are not applicable to this sector.

There are no clear estimates of the total number of domestic workers in the country, however, according to a study, every fourth household in the country hires domestic worker and majority of these workers is females (especially children). Moreover, according to an ILO Study, around 4-10% of total employment in developing countries is in the domestic work sector.

The labor laws mention domestic workers only twice. The Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance 1965 requires an employer to provide health care (including maternity care) to the full time domestic workers (Section 55-A). The Minimum Wages Act of 1961 also includes domestic workers in the definition of workers however government has not notified the minimum wages as applicable to these workers under this law.

The first bill on domestic workers, in order to bring them under the jurisdiction of labour laws, was drafted and presented in Senate in 2013. The Bill is still under discussion by the relevant Senate Committee. The Bill aims to protect the rights of the domestic workers, to regulate their employment and conditions of service and to provide them social security, safety, health facility and welfare. It provides domestic workers with all those rights available to other formal sector workers and creates a special domestic workers welfare fund. 

How does the Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance define domestic work?

According to this law, domestic servant is “any person working whole-time in connection with the work of any household for any consideration, whether in cash or in kind”.

This law requires an employer, employing a domestic worker, to provide his domestic servant with full medical care at his own cost. However, there is no mechanism provided in this law to check as to whether an employer is following this requirement or not. 

Can domestic workers form unions?

In accordance with article 17 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, “every citizen has the right to form associations or unions, subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality”. In view of above, domestic workers are free to form associations/unions. The first even union of domestic workers under the name of Domestic Workers’ Union has been registered in Lahore under the provisions of the Punjab Industrial Relations Act, 2010 (early 2015). This Union currently has 235 members out of which 225 are female domestic workers.

What are the common types of domestic work in Pakistan?

Domestic work employs a large part of female workers. The two most common types are child domestic labor and bonded/forced labor. Child domestic labor is when a child (under the age of 14 years) is employed to perform a work in household. According to an ILO study (2004), there are 264,000 child domestic workers in Pakistan. Most of these children are employed as bonded/forced laborers working under the debt bondage. These children or women are working to pay off the debt accrued by their parents or family members.

As per ILO considerations, this type of domestic work, where a child is working under debt bondage, working for long hours, during the night and is unreasonably confined to the premises of an employer, is the worst form of child labor.

What are the issues faced by domestic workers in Pakistan and worldwide?

The domestic workers face the following issues.

  1. Long and unlimited hours of work
  2. Heavy workload
  3. Lack of legal protection
  4. Violence and abuse at work, either physical or psychological
  5. Forced labor/child labor and trafficking of domestic workers
  6. No minimum wage protection and low salaries
  7. No labour inspection and law enforcement
  8. Weaker collective bargaining position
  9. Poor living quarters
  10. Insufficient food
  11. Lack of privacy
Next update: March 2016
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