Why cheap domestic help is no longer in abundant supply in India

In The Economist:

A glut of unskilled workers has long provided cheap labour. India’s latest employment survey in 2009-10 estimated that 2.7% of working Indians, or 10.4m people, worked in homes as maids, cooks, gardeners, and the like. The business is mostly unregulated, and the true figure is probably far higher. The International Labour Organisation says domestic workers account for 3.5-12% of the working population in developing countries, against less than 1% in rich countries.

Yet the culture may be changing. In Chennai, a commercial city in southern India, Bangalore, the country’s IT hub, and Goa, a coastal tourism hotspot, families also say it has become harder over the past five years to find live-in staff. Demand is rising as more women go out to work and fewer live in claustrophobic joint families where in-laws act as nannies. Yet supply is falling: 18% of urban women in the informal sector took up jobs as domestic workers in 2009-10, down from 27% five years earlier, according to a 2011 study led by a Harvard academic.

Economic liberalisation in the past two decades has created a wider range of low-skilled urban jobs. Malls need shop assistants. Offices need errand boys. In rural areas a job-creation scheme for poor households is keeping potential migrants at home. More:

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