National Consultation on Integration of Migrant Domestic Workers

National Consultation seminar on Integration of Migrant Domestic Workers

On February 7 2013, at the ILO office in Rome, FIERI has organised a meeting on the promotion of socio-economic integration of migrant domestic worker with relevant stakeholders: representatives of trade unions and employers’ organizations, researchers and public officials have attended the meeting. The main goal of the meeting has been to discuss the preliminary results of the research carried out by FIERI in Italy and to stimulate the debate about the main critical issues emerged from the fieldwork and the analysis of the regulation of the domestic sector.

The employment of domestic workers in Italy has boomed in recent years, especially in the field of domiciliary care for elderly, as a result of the interaction of three concurring factors: a “familiaristic” welfare state that has been increasingly subject to severe budgetary constraints; an advanced process of population ageing; a substantial growth of female employment. Furthermore, Italian immigration policies have directly or indirectly sustained the boom of the domestic sector making it as one of the main entry door in the national labour market.

More than 80% of domestic workers in Italy are migrant women, mostly from Eastern Europe, Latin America or Philippines, often employed as live-in workers in the elderly care service sector. Migrant domestic workers are now the cornerstone of a new care mix, where the role of public authorities in the provision of care services is negligible with respect to the market or third sector organizations. Some authors have described this new system as a “home-made welfare”.

The need to bring back the State in the organization, coordination and management of the care sector has been one of the key issues emerged during the debate. Indeed, according to many stakeholders, this would help to tackle the challenge represented by the double weakness of migrant domestic workers, on one side, and of families on the other side: in most cases employers of domestic and care workers are low and middle class households which face great difficulties in managing the employment relationship and bearing the costs of a regular worker. The design and implementation of care and social policies have been highly fragmented across the different territorial areas of the country. Besides, in most cases they were project-based initiatives and therefore discontinuous and with a limited impact. The sustainability of this system has been highly questioned by most of the stakeholders participating in the meeting. Finally, additional key issues debated are those related to the impact of migration of domestic workers for their families left behind, in a transnational perspective, and of future care needs of migrant domestic workers themselves that are rapidly approaching the retirement age with few chances to get a decent pension.