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Regulating International Labour Recruitment in the Domestic Work Sector

Regulating International Labour Recruitment in the Domestic Work Sector

by IDWFED published Apr 07, 2016 12:00 AM
Contributors: ILO
Regulating International Labour Recruitment in the Domestic Work Sector: A Review of key issues, challenges and opportunities. Based on a report elaborated by Leanne Melnyk.

Resource Type

Research reports, working paper



This brief on international labour recruitment is part of  a  series  on  issues  and  approaches  to  promoting  decent  work  for domestic  workers.  The  work  aims  to  highlight  the  specific  needs  and  vulnerabilities  of migrant domestic workers during the recruitment process and main issues and challenges as well as innovative practices for improving regulation of international the domestic work sector.

There are 67 million domestic workers employed in private households across the globe. Approximately 11.5  million  of  these  are  international  migrants,  drawn to countries where there is a demand for private care services.

In many regions labour recruiters,  both  public  and  private,  assist  families  and  migrant  domestic  workers  with  job  matching  and  immigration   formalities.   While   labour   recruiters, when   properly   regulated   can   provide   important   services,  there  have  also  been  an  increasing  number  of  reports  about  the  exploitation  and  abuse  of  migrant  domestic  workers  by  unscrupulous  private  employment agencies (PrEAs) and informal agents.

Exploitative  practices  include  deception  (primarily  about working and living conditions and the type of employment); charging unauthorized fees to workers; retention of identity documents with the aim to control  jobseekers  and  workers;  threats  and  intimidation including verbal and psychological abuse (often when a worker wants to leave the employment situation);  wage  retention;  interferences  with  domestic  workers’ privacy; and recruitment of children below working age.

Labour  recruitment  agencies  are  particularly  prevalent regarding migration within Asia, and from Asia and Africa to the middle East, where migration flows for  domestic  work  are  largely  circular  with  temporary employment tied to a specific employer.

Many temporary labour migration programs involving “low-skilled” workers are based in structural and income inequalities   between   developing   and   developed  economies.

Migrant  domestic  workers  (MDWs)  are  considered  to  be  especially  vulnerable  to  exploitation  due  to  a  variety of factors including precarious working conditions, migrant status, long-standing gender inequalities  and  cultural  devaluations  of  care-based  work.  

Nearly 75 per cent of all MDWs are women.


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