Migrant Domestic Workers

  1. Global Action Programme on Migrant Domestic Workers and Their Families - Project Report

In many countries, there is an increasing demand for domestic workers – a demand which is largely filled by women who come from less wealthy countries in search of decent jobs to support their families. This movement of workers across borders is structured by social class, ethnicity and gender. Because of this, new global care chains have come into existence, reflecting the global unequal distribution of resources.

Domestic workers usually do not enjoy the same level of protection as other workers. They are excluded from national legal protection in more than half of the world, and find themselves working in a sector that historically has not received equal respect and value. Domestic workers frequently work for excessively long hours with little pay and virtually no access to social protection. Many are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence. Due to the social, cultural and physical isolation they often work and live in, they face specific challenges in the exercise of their social, economic and cultural rights.

Migrant domestic workers are disproportionately exposed to abuse compared to nationals in the same sector due to a series of intersecting factors, including dependence on recruitment agencies, lack of reliable information on migration procedures, limited freedom to change employers, contract substitution, the retention of travel and identity documents by others, and lack of access to justice and effective redress mechanisms. The vulnerability of domestic workers is exacerbated when they are in an irregular migration situation.

In response, ILO Convention No. 189 and Recommendation No. 201 were adopted in 2011. The Convention requires that migrant domestic workers receive a written job offer or contract with the terms and conditions of employment, which is enforceable in the country of destination, prior to their arrival (Art. 7 and Art. 8). The provisions of the Convention concerning live-in domestic workers (Art. 6 and Art. 9), the right to keep their travel and identity documents (Art. 9) and the regulation of private employment agencies (Art. 15) are also of particular relevance for migrant domestic workers, many of whom are recruited through such agencies.