One of the perks for international businessmen, and especially their wives, in India is the comfort of having servants, something that would be a luxury they could not afford back in their home country. However, for the Indian middle class, servants or house helps are still more a “necessity”, rather than a “comfort” or “luxury”.

Sanjay Agarwal, a power industry professional, eloquently speaks about “The exploitive Indian Middle class: looking through the prism of ethics- Social commentary” (http://isanjay.in/archives/582) in his blog. Here he talks about the problems of unavailability of maidservants that are so much the talk of the best of parties in the Indian metros. Additionally, looking at the arbitrary steps taken by governmental institutions such as the police in the rural districts of East India, the problem is compounded, as it invariably is when government starts to interfere in economic activity.

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In Sanjay’s weblog, he brings up the exploitation of the underpaid maidservants in our country. Upper strata people have always hired help. In the current scenario of nuclear families and both partners working, there is a need of someone to take care of your house or children in your absence. Thus, this is not a sudden growth and this phenomenon of keeping house help has been around for ages. Getting and keeping maid servants seems to boil down to economics and supply and demand.

I am reminded about my studies of Economics 101 (and I have forgotten most of what came after that). I then read that prescribing minimum wages went against the grain of employment creation (in the case of over-supply of labor), and, unions that seem to create better employment conditions for those that got through actually erect barriers to entry for those who haven’t made it. This is for the simple reason that higher cost of employment makes it all that more difficult for the employer to justify hiring one more person.

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Sanjay identifies the common complaint of the Birkined class (sometimes also referred to as the Chanel class), of maid servants that don’t return from “home leave”. That alas is on the other side of the transaction; the maid that chooses not to return from her village is simply deciding not to enter into that transaction with the “exploitative” auntie.

Additionally, it seems that now police forces prevent young women from boarding trains from their villages, lest they be exploited in faraway lands for purposes other than what their agents (read: pimps) might be promising them. This in my opinion is a matter of inability to enforce law in the faraway Delhi, resulting in checks in the interior, the legitimate being checked along with the illegitimate.

This police action in the hinterland causes an under-supply creating an upward pressure on wages. The maid servants become choosy, leaving the employing aunties aghast at demands of the working class.

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In any case, in any dealing with fellow humans, I agree with Sanjay that it is good to remember everybody’s feces stinks, including our own. Let’s be polite to our fellow humans, while not forgetting the human forces of economics. One of the attractions of Singapore for international businessmen and their families is the ready availability of maid servants. I wonder how they mange it there and in other countries.

Something to think about, by those wishing to create employment….

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