Fair working conditions for domestic workers

Many young women leave their home villages to work in Delhi as domestic workers. There, they are often exploited or even abused. Caritas has built a self-help organisation with 4,000 members and offers training and legal advice.


Country / Region / Place
India, Delhi as well as Jarkhand

Target group
10,000 young women from villages of ethnic minorities who work in Delhi as domestic workers for rich Indian families.

Funding requirement
CHF 1,641,739

Project duration
01.02.2018 bis 31.03.2020

Project number

Project objectives:
Domestic workers are treated with respect and decency. They organise themselves in their Domestic Workers Forum, through which they assert their basic rights and demand vital assistance. Families and public authorities in the regions of origin are aware of the framework conditions of legal migration.

Project coordinator
Viola Buli, Tel: 041 419 22 46, vbulinot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam


Background information

The rights of domestic workers are being discussed worldwide. The International Labour Organisation in Geneva (ILO) adopted standards for domestic workers in 2011. They include dignified working conditions and basic rights for domestic workers that we take for granted: A minimum wage, agreed hours of work, paid annual leave and daily and weekly rest periods, a written contract of employment, freedom to choose where to reside, and social security protection. Moreover, the employer must take measures to ensure that domestic workers are protected against all forms of abuse and violence, and may not employ minors.

India is among the world’s largest economies, but at the same time, around one third of the world’s poor live in India. 20% of the population live on less than USD 1.90 a day, and hence in immense poverty. Migration is a common occurrence. The rapid development of the cities creates great demand for domestic workers. Due to the growing impoverishment of the rural indigenous population – which is being forcibly displaced from its land in the name of development – entire population groups are losing their livelihood. The precarious economic and social situation in the ethnic minority villages in eastern India drives many family members to the cities in search of work and an income, particularly young girls. 500,000 young women are estimated to work as domestic workers for wealthier Indian families in Delhi, often in very poor conditions. They come from the peripheral regions, such as Jarkhand. Organisations such as the Caritas partner organisation Chetanalaya support the domestic workers in their difficult situation and help them to claim their rights.


What are we doing?

India has not signed the ILO’s international standards, despite the fact that, according to India’s own estimates, some 10 million people work as domestic workers, almost 80% of them women.

Caritas Switzerland has been active on behalf of domestic workers in Delhi since 2004 and decided to work with the local partner and the domestic workers‘ representatives both in their region of origin and in the region where they work: This involves gathering information in the region of origin with different partners, creating a domestic workers‘ organisation in Delhi, lobbying and advocacy work for the legal recognition and protection at work of the domestic workers, hotlines for domestic workers facing problems.

The domestic workers build their own organisation: In the last four years, 4,000 young women became active members of the 'Domestic Workers Forum' in Delhi, an organisation run by the domestic workers themselves. They are organised in the neighbourhoods, meet regularly in more than 320 groups, discuss their work situation and develop strategies for action on how to assert their fundamental rights. With success: in some neighbourhoods, they were able to enforce better pay. Around 10,000 women have participated in further education courses, made use of legal aid, became involved in advocacy programmes, took part in large events and negotiated with politicians and the police. The Caritas partner organisation Chetanalaya supports the women in setting up their own organisation in the greater Delhi area and to secure the support of major actors such as politicians, women’s organisations, experts, lawyers and others.

Successful steps in the campaign work: In 2017, the government has acknowledged the 'Domestic Workers Forum' as a union. In addition, a legislative proposal was made for a law for domestic workers. The coming years are devoted to consistent support and training of the leaders, the expansion and embedding of the Forum and to campaigning work for the legal recognition of domestic workers. Moreover, support services such as mediation work in conflicts are strengthened for women in need. Emergency teams are available for victims of violence. Lawyers lodge complaints and represent the girls and young women in court. The aim is to establish the 'Domestic Workers Forum' in the future as a sustainable and self-supporting institution. For this purpose, membership fees are installed and a local fundraising strategy is set in place.

Chetanalaya and the Domestic Workers Forum intensify the information work in the regions of origin and place emphasis on ‘informed migration’. Young people, adults, communities and public authorities must be informed about the framework conditions of legal migration, prevent abuse and fight it. This is done mainly through cooperation with organisations in the regions of origin.

The organisation Chetanalaya has been active since the 1960s. Its work covers a broad range: Development work, advocacy and lobbying in the slums and settlements of Delhi, the establishment of active organisations among the disadvantaged population groups, legal assistance, emergency aid programmes, but also welfare support and kick-off programmes for young entrepreneurs. In the area of advocacy and lobbying, it works closely in the Caritas network, with other actors, with the Justice and Peace Commission and the government.


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