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Violence on Female Domestic Workers in Pakistan

Updated on February 23, 2018
  • What are the common types of domestic work in Pakistan?
  • What are the issues faced by domestic workers in Pakistan?
  • Can domestic workers form unions?
  • Is there any law in Pakistan, which governs domestic workers?
  • How does the national policy define home-based workers in Pakistan?
  • What are different provisions under this policy?
  • Reference Books

Female Domestic Workers


Domestic work employs a large part of female workers. The two most common types are live-in and live-out domestic workers. Live-in domestic workers are those who reside in the house where they perform their work while live-out workers live outside their place of work. The other categories are full time, part time, child domestic labor(under the age of 14 years) and bonded/forced labor. 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.

Domestic work is different from the care work performed by members of a household as part of a family responsibility and without creating an employment relationship.Domestic work includes (in a household or households)

Washing, ironing (clothes, dishes)
Cooking (Chef)
Security guards (home)
Driving (Chauffeur)
Child Care/Babysitting
Elder Care
Taking care of ill persons or persons with disabilities
Taking care of animals/pets etc.
Assistance in other household daily chores
Perform their work only occasionally or sporadically (such as part time baby sitters)
Perform the domestic work as a family responsibility (child care, elder care, etc.)

Workers employed for cleaning of public and private buildings and any other above mentioned activities are not domestic workers as domestic work is a household work and is usually performed within the boundaries of a house.


The domestic workers face the following issues.

  • Long and unlimited hours of work
  • Heavy workload
  • Lack of legal protection
  • Violence and abuse at work, either physical or psychological
  • Forced labor/child labor and trafficking of domestic workers
  • No minimum wage protection and low salaries
  • No labour inspection and law enforcement
  • Weaker collective bargaining position
  • Poor living quarters
  • Insufficient food
  • Lack of privacy


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”.

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.

HRCP moot demands better conditions for women workers

Karachi, December 29,2014

There was a pressing need for greater awareness of working women’s rights, ensuring equal pay for equal work irrespective of gender and recognition of women’s contribution to society and the national economy, a consultation organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Karachi on Monday concluded.

Participants of the consultation on ‘women’s wages and employment’ called upon the government to recognize home-based workers (HBW) and domestic workers as labour so that the cover of social security could be extended to them. The participants in the deliberations said that the informal sector contributed 35 percent to the national economy and employed millions of workers, especially women. It was thus a matter of grave concern that these workers could neither unionize nor demand minimum wage or claim any of the other entitlements available to workers under Pakistan’s law and the country’s international human rights commitments.

Khalida Ghous, a prominent human rights activist, presented a paper on employment trends, gender-based discrimination and exploitation and the wage gap between men and women engaged in identical or substantially similar work. Zehra Ali, senior office-bearer of a federation of domestic workers’ organizations, focused on HBWs and domestic workers, stating that in arriving at a coherent policy for these workers a particular difficulty had been agreeing on a uniform minimum wage because of the diverse nature of their work, particularly since HBWs were skilled workers. Social worker Dr Sajjad Ahmed made a presentation about occupational hazards and other health concerns for working women and the various issues regarding maternity leave. An exhaustive presentation on labour laws by Farhat Parween, civil society activist, highlighted the importance of collective bargaining for women workers.

The participants included a large number of women workers, students, social activists, female doctors, civil society organization representatives.

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. Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance governs the domestic workers rights.

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. There are no laws for home-based workers in Pakistan and the country has also not ratified the ILO Convention C177.

The first bill on domestic workers are 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.

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According to the National Policy, a home-based worker is:

  • A person who works within the home boundaries, or in any other premises of his/her choice, but excluding the premises of the employer’s or contractor’s workplace;
  • a person who works at home for remuneration or monetary returns;
  • a person who is self-employed or does piece-rate, own-account, or contract work, which results in a product or services as specified by the employer/contractor

The definition, used in national policy, is more comprehensive one than used earlier in ILO Convention, which covers only one category of home-based workers i.e., home workers.

The national policy provides that home-based workers will have

  • Equal treatment in wages and a minimum wage would be set
  • Skills training, provided by the government
  • Access to credit, land ownership and other assets
  • Freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Right to safe work place
  • Social security benefits
  • Right to registration as home-based workers

© 2017 Hamza Mumtaz


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