Migrant Domestic Workers: Promoting Occupational Safety and Health
Research reports, working paper
The International Labour Organization Constitution sets forth the principle that workers should be protected from sickness, disease and injury arising from their employment. Yet for millions of workers the reality is very different. Some two million people die every year from work-related accidents and diseases.
The suffering caused by such accidents and illnesses to workers and their families is incalculable. Due to the high employment rates of foreign-born workers in high-risk sectors such as domestic work, migrants and particularly those in an irregular status, are at greater risk for occupational injuries and work-related diseases, as well as death at work.
While a minority of migrant workers hold high-skilled jobs, many have jobs that are dirty, dangerous and demanding (so called “3D jobs”) and consequently face high risks of work-related accidents and disease.
As the demand for domestic work grows due to population aging and the progressive entry of women into the labor force of destination countries, more women - and a few men - from poorer countries are migrating in search of employment opportunities. Domestic work is not necessarily their first option but the only one available for them.
Indeed, the ILO recognizes that domestic workers can be particularly vulnerable to certain Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) risks including working long hours, limited rest, exposure to chemicals, lifting heavy weights, specific psychosocial
risks and violence.
These risks may be higher in case a domestic worker is also a migrant, due to lack of legal protection, linguistic, social and cultural barriers.