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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Providing Dignified Employment to the Largest Informal Sector of Working Women in India

I have had the privileged of getting to know Saket Mishra and it did not come as a surprise that he has a rich seven years of experience in healthcare marketing as a Creative Director, designing strategy, concept and ideas for pharmaceutical brands and campaigns. Saket is very keen on personal development and is constantly looking to engage in more fulfilling work for himself and for his community.
In 2009,he took a sabbatical to set up his own nonprofit that launched Maid in India. The project has been a success, raising over $15,000 in grant money, changed 250 lives and reached 1000 households. The project is making revenue of over $10 million and working towards training and employing 1000 maids by 2015.

Saket has recently been nominated for the Living Wage Innovation Challenge award. Do feel free to read more about the amazing work that Maid in India is doing and vote for Saket here http://www.innovatingjustice.com/innovations/dignified-employment-informal-sector-working-women-in-india

Below find more information about the work that this innovation attempts to address. (Adopted from the Innovative Justice Forum.)
For millions of domestic workers, we train, employ and raise their standard of living through fair labor practices
Several forms of manual labor for both men and women in India remains informal, underpaid, exploited and not recognized by the government. 85% of slum dwellers in India are informal workers, but their jobs are still not considered legitimate, leaving them without any rights, standardized wages or employment benefits.
Within the informal workers’ segment in Mumbai’s slums, there are two major specific groups:
  • Women: About 48% of informal workers are women, and 85% of them are engaged in domestic work, as maids or housekeepers in apartments around their vicinity. They typically make 100 USD per month doing this work, and spend 8-10 hours per day working. We will target this population specifically within this group. Our work so far has demonstrated that we can increase their salaries by 190%.
  • Men: About 20% men in the slum are engaged in construction work or informal jobs in the manufacturing sector. Out of the rest, 80% men are self-employed in low level, skill-based jobs like tailors, embroiderers, leather manipulators, bead workers etc. They earn about 120-150 USD per month, and the propensity of garment workers is higher in Muslim slums compared to Hindu slums.
Our innovation matches informal workers with employment opportunities. A surcharge levied on the employer pays for benefits for these workers. Employers in return get the guarantee and quality of a formal worker – they get replacement workers if their own domestic worker is absent from work, fair and fixed wages, as well as a new maid within 24 hours, if their domestic worker quits or is fired. Our intervention so far has been targeted at women, but our future iteration includes the men from their families and neighborhoods.
Samiksha is a maid who earned USD 68 as a teacher in a government-run primary school. With four children and no husband, she found it hard to make ends meet. The temporary nature of her job gave her no benefits, or opportunity for growth, which is typical in such job settings in India. Samiksha was recruited to be part of our training program. After completing our basic training, Samiksha was placed as a domestic worker for 4 hours. In 2 months, not only did she over-perform at this job, she was able to join 2 other households as a part-time domestic worker. She now makes over USD 200, which is higher than 95% of her neighbors and community members in her slum (average monthly income USD 110). In addition, she gets life insurance, accident insurance, health insurance and pension. She has also invested over USD 800 last year in savings schemes to support her children’s education. Many persons working in the ready-made garment sector also struggle to make ends meet and could be helped this way.
Some for-profit organizations that function, as blue-collar placement agencies do exist, but their goal is simply providing one-time placements. They do not provide any employment benefits, job security or standardization of wages or training programs.
Our approach is unique for 2 reasons - it eliminates any middlemen between employers and service providers, and it provides formal labor recognition and benefits to an otherwise informal labor force. Labor in the garment sector would also tremendously benefit from these two aspects.
In India, the garment sector is mostly comprised of embroiderers and dyers that are informally employed by designers on an ad hoc basis. By employing our model, we could formalize the relationship between the designers and these laborers, making it easy for them to charge a standardized (and fair) fee, as well as for designers to locate and engage with the most appropriate labor they need. In addition, our model would be able to provide these laborers employment benefits, so that their standard of living can incrementally improve over time, as well as relevant training in the areas of skill development, language and computer literacy, as well as basic financial management. Also, the connections with employers would make it easy to estimate market trends and needs, and create skill training programs based on that.
The biggest thrust of our program is to obtain standardized and fair wages for our maids in the first place, expanding our impact to other workers in the medium term. We not only train the maids to ensure standardized quality, but we also train them in negotiation skills, and our maids earn 190% higher wages after joining us as a result. This is possible because we also provide employers value added services, which allows our maids to command higher salaries. We have twice the demand from employers today, than maids available, so our maids always have plenty of options to choose from. In addition to salary, maids get a number of employment benefits from us, as well as job security. These allow them to meaningfully save and invest their money for their future, leading to higher wealth retention, and an overall increase in their standard of living over time.

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