Domestic workers

DFS can be a tool to financially empower domestic workers: Study

According to a study, the integration of domestic workers (women) in “digital financial services (DFS)” can be a tool for them to become economically empowered by introducing them as a method of payment of their wages.

The baseline survey conducted by the Institute of Social Business (ISB) revealed that nearly one million people work as domestic workers across the country. Among them, 90% are women. 99% of them receive their salary in cash.

As a result, their income is completely beyond the reach of the economic sector and a large number of DWs have no control over their income. They are deprived of financial autonomy, he added.

The results of the survey were presented during a program titled “Introducing DFS: Empowering Domestic Workers” held Wednesday at the CIRDAP auditorium. Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mostafa Jabbar graced the event as the chief guest.

In light of the survey, the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) will launch an initiative to integrate female domestic workers into “digital financial services (DFS)” to enable them to become economically self-sufficient.

As part of the MJF’s “Shuchona” project, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the survey was conducted among 4,000 domestic workers (DW) and 3,500 women employers (WE) in five localities — Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Goran, Keranigonj, and Kamrangirchar.

According to the survey, only 19% of DWs had the MFS account on their phone. DWs who have the MFS account can operate it on a limited scale mainly for withdrawals, cash-outs and mobile recharge. More importantly, 36% of DWs did not use the MFS account at all.

When asked about the adaptation of MFS, 92% of DWs said they were comfortable with cash salaries for two main reasons: the lack of telephone operations capacity and the inconvenience of withdrawing cash in the event of a ’emergency. Of the total, 44% of DWs said they wanted cash wages.

According to the survey, their monthly average household income and expenses were almost the same 13,265 Tk and 13,002 Tk respectively. Only 19% of them indicated that they could save money.

A joint decision-making practice (between TDs and family members) was observed for more than 60% of TDs. In terms of paying MFS transaction costs, DWs said employers would have to pay these fees as their income is very limited.

Some 91% of female employers (FE) said they were comfortable paying salaries in cash. 48% said they could not exploit the MFS account in any way. However, 81% are willing to pay the transaction cost of MFS if they adopt MFS.

The survey recommended that if training methodologies for DWs and WEs − can be developed taking into account their level of education, they can bring DW salaries under a numerical system.

Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of MJF, said, “The introduction of digital financial services will have a positive impact on the empowerment of domestic workers and their savings. It will be easier to include the income of domestic workers in national statistics.