Domestic Workers and the Challenges of Collective Action in Informal Work

Azim Premji University,


Domestic workers (henceforth, DW), are a part of the large informal’ sector of urban economy and society in India.ii According to the NSSO data, over the last two decades, the DW populationiii has emerged as the second largest urban informal workforce (Chen and Raveendran 2011), next only to home based workers’ (artisans and petty commodity producers). According to the NSS 68th round (July 2011- June 2012), it is estimated that 41.3 lakhs workers work in the households of others, and an overwhelming 27.9 lakhs of this total are women.iv An increasing number of studies are emerging about DWs around the world including the phenomenon of international migration of DWs for work. This paper is a critical commentary on the collectivization of DWs, based upon an ongoing empirical study that combines ethnographic and quantitative inquiry among DWs in different parts of Bengaluru, India. Our aim here is to provide readers with general insights into some of the key struggles of and prospects for domestic workers in a particular context – DWs who work in a mega-city and in multiple homes (rather than as live-ins).


  • Balmurli Natrajan
  • Rajesh Joseph