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PAKISTAN: DOMESTIC WORKERS BILL


The new Domestic Workers Bill is an- ticipated to ensure employment rights for all labourers.


came to light in 2013, when she was arrested for paying her maid – an Indian national – a reported $3 an hour. Numerous cases have also been widely reported on exposing the treatment of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Singapore.


The overwhelming majority of Pakistan’s domestic workers persevere without written, legally enforceable contracts that set out their job description, working hours, pay and overtime rates, working conditions etc. The Bill addresses these concerns and more. The Domestic Workers (Employment Rights) Bill 2013 entitles all workers to have a written contract with their employers including specific terms of employment, predefined working hours, and dignified working conditions. The Bill introduces a formal system of social security therefore putting in place the foundation for a social security


net. The Bill also sets out a dispute resolution mechanism and imposes strict penalties for employers who are in violation of the law. The requirement for written contracts will address several of the problems arising out of the information asymmetries existing in the job market. Job seekers will be able to provide evidence of their work experience and employers too can make more informed hiring decisions. The statement of objects and reasons for the Bill put forward was: “No accurate figures exist for the number of domestic workers employed in Pakistani households, but the figure is certainly in the hundreds of thousands if not the millions. Domestic work provides many Pakistanis with the opportunity to earn an honest living, but the conditions under which these men and women work are highly variable. There is a need to ensure that these domestic workers are provided at least a minimum level of benefits and


facilities. Furthermore there is a need to regulate their terms and conditions of employment to ensure that they are treated with respect and dignity, while ensuring that excessive regulation does not create an impediment to the hiring of such workers. The present Bill is being moved in pursuance of these objectives.”


The Bill is currently under review before a Senate Standing Committee, a process that can be quite slow. In some ways, the historic and radical nature of the Bill increases the level of scrutiny that it will be subjected to. Labour-related law is a provincial subject under Pakistan’s constitution and so the Bill will cover only the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). The 18th Constitutional Amendment passed during the previous regime of the Pakistan People’s Party has given Pakistan’s evolving constitutional edifice a distinctly federal flavour. It is expected that the provinces will follow with their


own legislation once the Bill passes for the Capital Territory. The International Labor Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers 2011 has been ratified by 10 member states. Pakistan however, has not ratified the convention and the ILO reports that Pakistani domestic workers are excluded from the scope of the country’s labour laws.


Few countries around the world have specific laws to protect domestic workers, and if passed, the proposed laws will put Pakistan at the forefront of protection of rights for this demographic. It is also hoped that through inter-parliamentary cooperation and interaction, other Commonwealth nations may also benefit from such legislation. While each country has its own unique and individual circumstances, the issue of domestic workers and their employment rights is clearly a global one.


The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three | 173


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