In 2017, 21.3 million people worldwide are refugees displaced from their homelands. One of the few employment options available to women (and girl) refugees, who account for 50 per cent of this population, is domestic work. The sector – loosely regulated and with limited barriers to entry – attracts many refugees who otherwise find it difficult to obtain work permits and to have their degrees and qualifications recognized.
On 16 June 2011, the world celebrated the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (ILO Convention No. 189). Convention No. 189 was an historic victory that recognized domestic workers as workers like any other. Since then, 70 countries have taken measures to adopt or reform law and policy, including 24 countries that have ratified Convention No. 189.
The sector is yet again on the cusp of major change, as governments prepare to negotiate global compacts on migration and refugees with the objective of developing a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on human mobility and refugee response by July 2018.
In many countries, domestic workers are refugees or migrants. How these global compacts unfold will impact the working and living conditions for domestic workers for many years to come.
While domestic work continues to be a national phenomenon in many parts of the world, economic, social and gender inequalities, as well as war, climate change, and violence are forcing millions of people into migration for employment in domestic work every day. Globally, there were 67.1 million domestic workers in 2015, of whom 11.5 million were migrant domestic workers, representing almost eight per cent of all migrant workers *1. This trend is expected to grow. Population ageing, increasing life expectancy, and an increase in women’s labor market participation are putting a strain on traditional care arrangements. At the same time, austerity measures are cutting public care services. Households are relying in greater numbers on the services of domestic and household care workers from Africa, South-Asia and Latin America.
In 2017, 21.3 million people worldwide are refugees displaced from their homelands. One of the few employment options available to women (and girl) refugees, who account for 50 per cent of this population *2, is domestic work. The sector – loosely regulated and with limited barriers to entry – attracts many refugees who otherwise find it difficult to obtain work permits and to have their degrees and qualifications recognized.
Because domestic work is not respected and frequently unprotected, they often don’t find the safety and security they need, and once again face situations vulnerable to exploitation, violence, and intimidation.
The governance of human mobility is becoming increasingly fragmented and development and humanitarian response frameworks prioritize certain categories of human mobility at the expense of others. In addition, there is not enough focus on addressing the root causes of displacement and migration. Rather, we are seeing growing numbers of populist and right wing regimes the world over implementing policies that further harm workers, women, marginalized people, and migrants, further driving down the working and living conditions of all.
As domestic workers, women, migrants and refugees, the members of the International Domestic Workers Federation stand united across the globe on this June 16th in a call for comprehensive policy frameworks that tackle the root causes of poverty, discrimination and insecurity to ensure everyone has decent work, freedom of mobility, and lives free of violence in all its forms.
- ILO. 2015. Global estimates on migrant workers: Results and methodology (Geneva).