Based on Caribou Digital’s research on women, work, and ID in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, this blog is part of a series that explores Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan women’s views on and experiences of identity services. This piece shares insights gathered from fieldwork investigating the perspective of female Bangledeshi domestic workers.
Bangladesh’s domestic workforce numbers 10.5 million, of which around 90% are female. These women are among the country’s most disadvantaged groups, due to: “poor living conditions, lack of formal education, and absence of contracts or labour rights at work.”
In Caribou’s sample, they discovered that approximately half of domestic workers possessed some form of identification, while the remaining 50% did not hold any kind of identification. For those without ID, the prospect of gaining identification is perceived as a pathway to getting a better job.
However, Caribou’s report observes that referrals – through personal networks, influential contacts, and word of mouth – are more beneficial than ID documentation for domestic workers seeking employment. This limits the incentives for domestic workers to prioritise getting ID.
What’s more, domestic workers contend with a number of barriers to attaining an ID. In particular, taking time off work and managing the logistics of applying were highlighted as key obstacles. One woman who was interviewed estimated that obtaining official identification would require her to take 10 days away from work – something that she could not do.
As a result of living without ID, female domestic workers in Bangladesh are more likely to be paid in cash. Women interviewed reported being more financially dependant on their husbands or on informal and potentially insecure savings networks. The report authors note: “While having an ID doesn’t immediately lead to financial inclusion, with cultural change, it may help women become more financially independent.”