New Treaty to Establish Labor Protections for Domestic Workers

The International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted a groundbreaking treaty yesterday to extend labor protections to domestic workers. The ILO, made up of trade unions, employers’ organizations, and governments, voted overwhelmingly to adopt the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which institutes the first global standards for domestic workers. Key elements of the convention require governments to provide domestic workers with protections equal to those of other workers, such as minimum wage, overtime compensation, social security, maternity protection, and daily and weekly rest periods. These standards also require governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse.

Experts say there could be over 100 million domestic workers worldwide, 83% of whom are women or girls. Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable because they work in private homes isolated from other workers, and until now have been largely excluded from labor protections guaranteed to other workers. Domestic workers face a wide range of abuses and labor exploitation, including non-payment of wages, physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and trafficking.

According to the ILO, domestic workers in Asia are the most vulnerable. 95% or more of domestic workers in Asia receive salaries below minimum wage and there is no limit on their weekly hours of work, which means that the majority do not get regular weekly days off. The ILO noted that in the Philippines, domestic workers receive half of the minimum wage in the National Capital regions, and even less elsewhere, while over half of them work more than 10 hours a day.

Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, noted, “Discrimination against women and poor legal protections have allowed abuses against domestic workers to flourish in every corner of the world. This new convention is a long overdue recognition of housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers as workers who deserve respect and equal treatment under the law.”


GMA News 6/17/11; IRIN News 6/17/11; Human Rights Watch 6/16/11

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