Landmark treaty for domestic workers comes into force

The International Labour Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) comes into force on 5 September 2013, extending basic labour rights to domestic workers around the globe.


The International Labour Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) comes into force on 5 September 2013, extending basic labour rights to domestic workers around the globe.

Currently there are at least 53 million domestic workers worldwide, not including child domestic workers, and this number is increasing steadily in developed and developing countries.

The number adds to an estimated 10.5 million children worldwide – most of them under age – working as domestic workers in people’s homes. 83 per cent of domestic workers are women.

The new Convention becomes binding international law as of 5 September. It needed ratification by two ILO member States. To date, eight ILO member States (Bolivia, Italy, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa and Uruguay) have ratified the Convention.

Since the Convention’s adoption, several countries have passed new laws or regulations improving domestic workers’ labour and social rights, including Venezuela, Bahrain, the Philippines, Thailand, Spain and Singapore. Legislative reforms have also begun in Finland, Namibia, Chile and the United States, among others. Several others have initiated the process of ratification of ILO Convention 189, including Costa Rica and Germany.

“All this shows that the momentum sparked by the ILO Convention on domestic workers is growing. The Convention and Recommendation have effectively started to play their role as catalysts for change. They now serve as a starting point for devising new polices in a growing number of countries – recognizing the dignity and value of domestic work,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Working Conditions and Equality Department.

According to an ILO study from January 2013, entitled Domestic Workers Across the World, domestic workers work for private households, often without clear terms of employment, unregistered and excluded from the scope of labour legislation. At the time of the research, only ten per cent were covered by general labour legislation to the same extent as other workers. More than one quarter are completely excluded from national labour legislation.

Deplorable working conditions, labour exploitation and human rights abuses are major problems facing domestic workers.

Lack of legal protection increases domestic workers’ vulnerability and makes it difficult for them to seek remedies. As a result, they are often paid less than workers in comparable occupations and work longer hours.

“Today’s entry into force of Convention 189 sends a powerful signal to more than 50 million domestic workers worldwide. I hope that it will also send a signal to ILO member States and that we soon see more and more countries committing to protect the rights of domestic workers,” concluded Tomei.

Source: ILO

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