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Rights for Domestic Workers: Good News from the ILO

Finally, domestic workers are being recognized and given the same rights as other workers. On 5 September the International Labour Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention came into force.

According to the ILO, “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.”

What is this new Convention’s impact? Does it make a difference?

Still according to the ILO, “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.”

The ILO’s press release states: “domestic workers work for private households, often without clear terms of employment, unregistered and excluded from the scope of labour legislation. [In January 2013], 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.”

Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Working Conditions and Equality Department, affirms that: “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.”

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