FAIRWAY celebrates 10 years since the adoption of the Domestic Workers’ Convention (189)

While significant progress has been made to promote domestic workers’ rights in the Arab States, important challenges remain, and overcoming these is part of FAIRWAY’s ongoing efforts in policy reform and capacity building.

News | 14 June 2021
This year’s International Domestic Workers Day marks the 10 year anniversary of the adoption of the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 201), through which the  international community recognized the significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy, but acknowledged that domestic work was largely invisible, undervalued and mostly performed by women and girls, often migrant workers.

In the last decade, the vast majority of countries in the Arab States have introduced some protections for domestic workers in line with Convention 189, and Recommendation 201, either through inclusion of domestic workers in the labour law, separate laws or subordinate regulations concerning domestic work, or protections under standard employment contracts. In the context of some working conditions – such as the right to a weekly rest day – these protections have reduced the gap between domestic workers and other workers. However, in the context of most other labour rights, legal protections for domestic workers fall short. In most countries, this means longer maximum working hours, lower entitlements to annual leave, and lower wages. Social security coverage for domestic workers, who are overwhelmingly migrant workers in the region, remains insufficient.

Countries of origin in Africa have recognised the need to ensure that their nationals who migrate abroad for employment need to be able to so in a safe, regular and dignified manner, with adequate protections in place at the recruitment stage to ensure decent working conditions. They have shown commitment to revising and strengthening recruitment regulations, ensuring pre-departure orientation. Unions have been engaged to support policy advocacy and information dissemination. Nevertheless, migrant workers may still depart their communities of origin with heavy debt due to having paid recruitment fees and related costs.  As a job-intensive sector that meets essential and growing household needs for direct and indirect care services, domestic work could be a source of employment in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

In the Arab States, the next decade of reforms in the region should focus on closing the legal gaps, including targeting such issues as excessive working hours among live-in domestic workers, regulating overtime pay and compensatory rest, and limiting payments in kind.

The right to a weekly rest day and rest periods must also be upheld by ensuring that domestic workers are free to dispose of their rest time as they please, with the right to leave the household during rest periods."

Adequate regulation needs to be complemented with public awareness campaigns and tools to facilitate the monitoring and enforcement of working time regulations, to ensure their effective implementation. In closing legal gaps, governments are encouraged to engage with social partners to fix an appropriate minimum wage level that accounts for the specificities of the sector.

The FAIRWAY project is working on multiple levels, and in collaboration with other ILO projects and initiatives, to support promising reforms, including support to developing standard operating procedures for the government’s Domestic Workers’ Department (Kuwait), access to online grievance mechanisms (Jordan), and kafala/sponsorship reform (Lebanon).

Finally, a future in which decent work becomes a reality for domestic workers must be driven by social dialogue, as a crucial instrument for addressing the remaining decent work deficits for domestic workers. The FAIRWAY Programme works closely with the International Domestic Workers’ Federation and its affiliates to ensure that domestic workers voices are heard.

For further information, please see: Making decent work a reality for domestic workers: Progress and prospects ten years after the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) and the accompanying press release available here.