Young domestic workers: A qualitative study on the health and wellbeing of girls working in households in Delhi

Svensson, J; (2018) Young domestic workers: A qualitative study on the health and wellbeing of girls working in households in Delhi. PhD thesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. DOI:

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India has among the highest number of working children and young people globally. While, precise figures on child domestic work (CDW) remain unknown, literature indicates middleand upper-class households in urban India are increasingly seeking females, especially young girls, for domestic work. In 2011, CDW was identified as hazardous labour that poses serious health and safety risks. Yet, evidence on the health of CDWs is limited. This study aims to explore girls’ lived experiences of domestic work, the social context of young female domestic work in Delhi and implications for girls’ health and wellbeing. Data were collected from January to December 2015 in seven districts of New Delhi. Methods included: observations; group sessions; and in-depth interviews with 27 young female domestic workers aged 13-21. Nine interviews were conducted with young workers’ parents and three with employers. Findings suggest that risk perceptions regarding CDW’s health and wellbeing are low among parents, employers and the working girls themselves, despite various work hazards, for example ergonomic injuries from working in bent positions, which can lead to long-term disabilities, as described by working mothers. Work can also impede intellectual development because it interferes with school attendance. Girls were also at risk of harm because they received little training or support to address demanding physical and emotional tasks. Work also affected girls’ menstrual health related to access to sanitary facilities and products. However, work simultaneously offered opportunities for girls, such as: mobility and autonomy; a new social role as breadwinner; and more gender equality in a patriarchal society. Nonetheless, findings indicate that the girls are not fully in charge of their own health and safety. Thus, girls’ right to work in dignity and under healthy conditions should be recognised in Indian laws and regulations affecting the living and employment situations of young female domestic workers.

Item Type: Thesis
Thesis Type: Doctoral
Thesis Name: PhD
Contributors: Zimmerman, C (Thesis advisor); Buller, AM (Thesis advisor);
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Global Health and Development
Research Centre: Gender Violence and Health Centre
Funders: Dr Tech. Marcus Wallenberg Foundation for Education in International Industrial Entrepreneurship, Sixten Gemzéus Foundation, Eva and Oscar Ahréns’ Foundation
Copyright Holders: Jenny Ann Elise Svensson


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