01-10-2013 - 30-09-2017

Namrata Ramanan,
Ilse Derluyn &
Lucia De Haene

Child labour is an integral part of the labour force, especially in developing countries. India continues to host the largest number of child workers today. One of the most common and traditional forms of child labour is child domestic labour. Many of the employees are live-in-workers who are brought from villages to work in cities like, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai. All over India, children from rural low socio economic sectors are taken into people’s urban homes to clean, cook, take care of other children and do a variety of activities detrimental to their physical and psychological development. In Bangalore alone over 100 minors are brought into the city illegally each day from various parts of the country to be placed in homes as domestic workers. These children are sent or taken away from their homes by agents or relatives and once placed in their employers’ homes have little or no contact with their parents.

Research indicates the importance of exploring cultural notions of childhood and parenting in understanding the conduct and meaning making of child domestic work. One’s place within social, familial and generational hierarchies influences significantly one’s views on these issues, as do family circumstances, local cultural norms, economic situations and geographic (particularly rural or urban) location.


Given that definitions of childhood, development, labour and abuse are culture specific; a detailed exploration into the parental and child lived experiences of poverty, abuse, coping, inter personal relationships in the context of child domestic work and how these processes of meaning-making relate to cultural definitions and understanding in India, is highly needed.

In this research we will focus on the meaning making and conduct of parent child relationships to gain an understanding of the situation that drives parents to send their children to work and their coping in this situation, obtain a deeper understanding of the lives of child domestic workers and to bridge a gap in the existing literature on this topic with regard to parent child relationships, family structure, social and cultural parameters that contribute to the problem and the possible solutions to this. The field work will take place by engaging child domestic workers, families of child domestic workers and the employers; from households in Bangalore, India. To reach out to the families of child domestic workers, we will work in collaboration with National Domestic Workers Movement.


With the understanding that children’s work needs to be understood in the light of different material and cultural conditions and seen as varying according to a range of individual factors, and that the concept of child rights and childhood is not universal in practice but is greatly influenced by the cultural and societal norms in specific communities.

This study is guided by the following objectives:
1) Gaining insight into the meanings and conduct of parent-child relationships in the context of child domestic work through an understanding of the family structure and inter personal dynamics and the role of children in this.
2) Understanding the realities of child domestic work through an exploration into their daily lives, their lived experiences of abuse, peer relationships, coping mechanisms and their expectations from parents or parent figures in terms of support.
3) Understanding what the individual and community perception is on child domestic work, it’s effects on children and the possibilities to alleviate the situation.


During the course of this research the following questions are sought to be answered;
1) What are the lived experiences of the parents of child domestic workers with regard to their offspring/s working for a third party, their coping mechanism for dealing with separation from children, their perceptions on possible abuse faced by the children and their meaning making of their child acting as part or full wage earner for the family in a structure where children are treated with affectionate indulgence?
2) What is the meaning making of the absence of parents/parental figures in the lived experience of child domestic workers?
3) What, if any, are solutions that can be identified to help better the lives of child domestic workers?