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Care economy

ILO stresses the need for transformative care economy policies with decent employment opportunities for domestic workers

An Ibero-American symposium in Cartagena aims to identify challenges and opportunities for policy makers. The ILO Director-General joined Ministers of Labour from Latin America and Spain for Tuesday's virtual opening session.

News | 28 February 2023
CARTAGENA, Colombia (ILO News) – The ILO has highlighted the need for transformative policies to generate better employment opportunities for domestic workers, who do much of the care work in homes.

"Domestic work has historically been marked by precariousness and a lack of decent work," ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo told the opening virtual session of an Ibero-American meeting. "In Latin America and the Caribbean we are talking of some 15 million women who have high rates of informality, work long hours and receive low wages."

Houngbo joined Ministers of Labour from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Uruguay at the opening of the Ibero-American Symposium: Investing in care to make domestic work decent work, which brought together representatives of governments, employers' and workers' organizations in Cartagena, for a meeting that concludes on Thursday.

The Director-General stressed that after the pandemic crisis, "a human-centred recovery requires investments in transformative care policies in order to generate quality employment and the full integration of women into the labour market. A key element of this strategy is to ensure the protection of domestic workers’ rights."

Recalling the ILO’s Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), he said "whilst undeniable progress has been achieved, much remains to be done to ensure that all domestic workers have access to decent work."

Houngbo told the meeting that 16 Ibero-American countries have already ratified this standard.

The Director-General addressed the meeting by video, from ILO headquarters in Geneva where he was joined by the Minister of Labour and Second Vice-President of Spain, Yolanda Díaz, who on Tuesday deposited her country's ratifications of Convention 189 on domestic work, and the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188).

The ILO has stressed how the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the crucial role played by domestic workers, most of whom are women, in supporting the care needs of households. But also showed the precarious situations in which most of them work.

"Many were forced to go to work despite the health risks, others lost their jobs and had no access to income support measures, with the risk of falling into extreme poverty," a background document prepared by the ILO for the Ibero-American symposium concluded.

The document also highlights the potential of the care sector to generate decent jobs. The ILO estimates that up to 299 million jobs could be generated globally by 2035 in the care economy sector.

The Ibero-American symposium seeks to identify viable recommendations and to agree on an Ibero-American roadmap and regional programme for investment in the care economy, with the aim of offering new job opportunities that strengthen decent employment for domestic workers.

The event is taking place within the framework of a Collaboration Agreement between the ILO and the Ministry of Labour and Social Economy of Spain, with the collaboration of the Spanish Agency for International for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the ILO International Training Centre. The Symposium is also supported by the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB) and the Ibero-American Social Security Organisation (OISS).