Bhutan is facing a growing ‘maid and baby sitter’ crisis, especially in urban areas where usually both the father and mother are working professionals.
The major impact is on the economy as most families in urban areas are nuclear in nature mostly due to grandparents not being able to adjust to the urban ‘apartment’ and faster life. It is also not fair to regard grandparents as natural babysitters as it is their time to rest.
As a result it is usually one of the parents (mostly the mother) who has to sacrifice her career and time. It is also not easy on the father too, who in the absence of paid help has to pitch in taking away time from office.
All of this has a huge impact on the economy, as we have highly qualified and professional mothers and even fathers, these days, doing work that in a modern economy is ideally assigned to paid and professional help like maids, babysitters etc.
Some like to lecture that if in the ‘old days’ parents could manage then they should now. This is a hypocritical argument as in the old days help could be found due to poverty. Also, the then institution of joint families allowed the working men and women to continue working while servants or family members took care of household work or babysitting.
This is no longer the case as Bhutan’s economy gets stronger and living standards improve.
On one hand there is a strong imperative of not allowing unwanted immigration into Bhutan which is a legitimate goal. However, with strong demand and lack of legal supply what is happening is that there is illegal smuggling of maids and house helps into Bhutan.
Under a legalized system it would be possible to control the numbers, track down maids and helps and ultimately ensure they leave the country once their services are not required. Such a system would also provide protection to the maids as they can approach authorities when they are abused and authorities can also prevent child maids from being used.
Under the current system the numbers of illegally supplied maids are growing and since the immigration authorities do not have a record of them they cannot track them or even ask them to leave. This veil of secrecy is also not good for the maids themselves who can be subject to all kinds of abuse.
There should either be facilities inside the country to provide maids who are treated and paid well or the government should allow some form of controlled entry of well trained and regulated foreign maids. The only other option in the long run is to tie down half our workforce for years or take them out of action altogether.
I have a maid.