We are living in Mumbai for the past nearly a year or so.
The experience that we are having with the home assistance workers in Mumbai is widely different from our previous experiences with that kind of workers. The positive aspect of Mumbai workers is that they are apparently more business-like than elsewhere in the country. They are purposeful, finish the work within the time allocated or earlier, and do not have the time to chit chat or delay things.
However, the not so positive aspects are – they are just money-minded (as is almost everyone else in Mumbai), quality of delivery is not that great – shoddy at times, need constant supervision to ensure completion of work to satisfaction, and need to be pushed to deliver a bit more when needed. Further, the art of work segmentation has been refined in this sector of the economy to such an extent that one ends up hiring 2 to 3 maids for delivering on different pieces or types of work. What I mean here should be clear to most professional families in Mumbai, however, let me elaborate a bit. Unlike in Singapore, or in the South of India, where live-in maids are common, it is difficult to find one such dedicated full-time maid here in Mumbai. The only probable exclusion to that rule is serviced apartments where there are dedicated workers like in a hotel.
Given that live-in maids are not easily available, the household work segments into multiple maids delivering either different types of work or at different time zones. For example, in our case, there is one maid who reports in at appx 7 AM for cooking and washing clothes. She won’t do any other type of work, and she finishes her work at around 10 AM and leaves for the day. Another maid comes in at 8:30 AM on a typical day and focuses only on cleaning of the house – sweeping, wiping the floor and windows et al, and she probably leaves at about 10:30 PM or so. Then there is another worker who turns up usually at 4 PM for the evening clean up at the kitchen, etc.,
The difficulty in this arrangement is that it holds up outside work for the spouse, and it requires constant management of the workers’ outputs and quality of service. It would drain some energy I guess. While similar administration is required in other places, that is limited to just one worker – unlike in Mumbai. Further it has been noticed that the worker has many choices in a concentrated Mumbai suburban area, and is not really worried about loss of job, since word of mouth propagation takes a long time due to the demanding professional lives and working hours of the families. These workers mostly come from outside Maharashtra, the state of which Mumbai is the capital city. That phenomenon is quite similar to what happens in a Hong Kong or Singapore, where the guest home workers also come in from elsewhere – from countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, etc., The only difference is that the Mumbai workers come from other states of India, and quickly adapt to the lifestyle of Mumbai which drives everyone to be purposeful and money-minded. No surprise here !
The work and time segmentation of the household workers leads me to wonder why there are no advanced search agencies which not only finds these workers but also trains them to deliver quality work on a graded payscale compatible with the expectations of their employers. In Singapore, for example, this is a highly developed industry – there are probably more than 500 agencies who bring in around 100,000 maids into the country. Not that everyone is perfectly trained, but the scope and depth of the industry provides worker migration and employer choice.
Well, some food for thought. I found couple of such agencies in Mumbai but was not happy with them. Let us hope this industry develops and also provides worker insurance and protection.
Have a good weekend folks !
19 May 2007