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Domestic Workers – Progress and Ongoing Struggle
History was made on June 16, 2011 when governments, employers and workers from around the world adopted the Convention and accompanying Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers at the 100th International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva. Read about this significant historical event.
Seven countries have now ratified the ILO convention and recommendation!
In February 2013, the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) was awarded the 2013 George Meany–Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award by the AFL-CIO in recognition of their work in the international struggle for rights. Read more.
The ILO has published Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and Regional Sttatistics and the Extent of Legal Protection (January 2013).
WIEGO gathers news about domestic workers from around the globe and posts it to our News & Events section.
The Ongoing Fight
The fight for domestic workers' rights continues, with domestic workers making gains in some arenas, but still facing extreme hardship in others. Here are some of the latest developments and news stories about domestic workers.
In Uruguay and Italy─both of which have ratified C189─domestic workers have negotiated new collective agreements.
Michelle Chen writes in In These Times: Domestic Workers Sow a New Global Movement.
Brazil grants domestic workers equal labour rights - After decades as second-class citizens under Brazil's Constitution─which long ago established a special, subservient category for domestic workers─a constitutional amendment passed by the Brazilian Congress will remove the clause and make domestic workers equal to other workers under the law. Read 28 March 2013 news article. A new law furthers the existing rights for social protection of domestic workers, and includes establishing an eight-hour workday, compensation for lay over and payment for extra hours, and crèche benefits for those with children under 5. Learn more.
Joint campaign to end abuse of domestic workers in Lebanon - More than 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon face potential exploitative and abusive working and living conditions. The sponsorship (kafala) system makes a worker dependent upon one employer for her legal status – and encourages employers to lock the worker in the house, withhold her passport, and violate other basic human rights. Five Lebanese NGOs have launched the "Fi Shi Ghalat" (Something Is Wrong) campaign to raise awareness of the negative consequences of the sponsorship system on both employers and migrant domestic workers. Read more and see campaign resources.
Domestic Workers protest in India - A minimum wage of 50 rupees per hour, weekly time off, medical benefits and paid holidays were some of the demands made by domestic workers, who held a massive demonstration in Chennai, India to demand a national policy for domestic workers. Read about the 27 March 2013 event.
Ecudaorian domestic workers still fight for their rights - Two years ago, Ecuadorians voted “yes” on a referendum question to require the employers of dependant workers (mainly live-in maids or nannies) to sign up their employees to the social insurance system (IESS) and pay the required dues and minimum wages, but more is needed to ensure compliance. Read a 27 March 2013 article.
Law drafted to protect domestic workers across Arab States of the Gulf - The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf hope to have a common law to regulate the domestic sector workforce, including maids, so they could have a unified job contract format for house helps. Read the 25 March 2013 story.
In Their Own Voices
Organizing the Patience Industry: Profile of a Domestic Worker in Maputo, Mozambique by Ruth Castel-Branco (WIEGO Workers' Lives No. 3).
Domestic Workers Count Too: Implementing Protections for Domestic Workers is based on personal testimonies of workers from Bolivia, New York State, USA, the Philippines and South Africa. This ITUC-UN Women briefing kit encourages all governments to take measures to ensure domestic workers are recognized and protected by law. Read more about this resource.
New publication looks at the well-being of child domestic workers in six countries – Costa Rica, India, Peru, Philippines, Tanzania and Togo. Almost 1,500 child domestic workers were interviewed in the course of research for this Anti-Slavery International publication. Read Home Truths: Wellbeing and Vulnerabilities of Child Domestic Workers.
Domestic workers around the globe are using video and demonstrations to tell their stories. Some are captured in this In These Times article by Michelle Chen.
The International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) website contains features and updates on the global fight for domestic workers' rights.
Amid the successes there was ongoing hardship and tragedy. Stories of abuse, confinement and terrible working conditions continue to come out of many countries. And almost everywhere, domestic workers are fighting for basic rights and protections afforded other workers.
- In Hong Kong, the top court has ruled that domestic workers are not eligible to apply for permanent residency.
- In Singapore at least nine domestic workers – most Indonesian women – have fallen from highrise buildings this year while washing windows or hanging laundry poles. Read story.
- In Pakistan, police were searching fora family that had allegedly murdered its 15-year-old domestic. Read more.
Recent research conducted by Human Rights Watch on domestic workers (mainly in Asia and the Middle East) found similarities across continents of the kinds of issues they face, said Liesl Gerntholtz, the Director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. But she says even though there are huge violations against some domestic workers, there has been progress.