Undervalued and Overrepresented: Voices of Migrant Domestic Workers in India

  • Aakanksha SinhaEmail author
  • Megan Quint
  • Pritikusum Sinha
  • Anupama Singh
  • Pravin Kumar Sinha


In India and globally, domestic work continues to be one of the professions that is rooted in the history of colonialism, slavery, and servitude due to lack of workplace regulation and one-on-one power negotiation between the employer and the worker. Thousands of households in urban India are dependent upon domestic workers for tasks such as cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, and caregiving. This profession predominantly consists of women from low socioeconomic families, and scheduled caste and tribe. Additionally, due to urbanization and a decline in the agricultural industry, majority of the domestic workers have migrated from various parts of the country due to poverty. The migrant women domestic workers (MWDWs) are often faced with exploitative conditions at the workplace and their social environment. Previous studies and policy initiatives have focused on workplace exploitation. However, there are challenges that go beyond the confines of the employer’s house that adversely impact the well-being of the MWDW. Using a social work lens that emphasizes the impact of the sociocultural, and economic environment on an individual’s wellbeing, the current study aims to go beyond the direct employer–employee relationship. This study analyses data from 91 MWDWs from 6 states in India—(i) Bihar, (ii) Jharkhand, (iii) Karnataka, (iv) Madhya Pradesh, (v) Odisha, and (vi) Uttar Pradesh. The results of the study contribute towards (i) providing an insight on the everyday hardships of the MWDW (ii) emphasizing the need to diversify the discourse of domestic workers’ rights and well-being to include the role of the family, community, state, and national level infrastructure, and (iii) recommending alternative approaches for securing decent work and overall well-being that can supplement government legislation.


Domestic workers Human rights Poverty Worker rights Migrant workers 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Additionally, informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social WorkSeattle UniversitySeattleUSA
  2. 2.International Participatory Development InstituteNew DelhiIndia

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