International Domestic Workers Day

Covered by labour laws, Viet Nam’s domestic workers need actual protection

Ten years after international convention, domestic workers in the world still fight to be recognized as workers and essential service providers. Although Viet Nam stands out in the region because domestic workers are covered by labour laws, the challenge for the country is now in compliance.

Press release | 15 June 2021
©ILO/Nguyen Viet Thanh
HANOI (ILO News) – Exclusion from national labour laws and high levels of informality continue to take a heavy toll on the working conditions of domestic workers in the Asia and the Pacific region according to a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report launched today.

Making Decent Work a Reality for Domestic Workers: Progress and Prospects in Asia and the Pacific Ten Years after the Adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 highlights that the majority (61.5 per cent) of domestic workers in Asia and the Pacific are fully excluded from coverage under national labour laws while 84.3 per cent remain in informal employment.

There is an urgent need to formalize domestic work in the Asia Pacific, starting with the inclusion of domestic work in labour and social security laws, to ensure that these vital workers are offered the protection and respect they deserve."

Chihoko Asada Miyakawa, Assistant ILO Director General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific
“There is an urgent need to formalize domestic work in the Asia Pacific, starting with the inclusion of domestic work in labour and social security laws, to ensure that these vital workers are offered the protection and respect they deserve,” said Chihoko Asada Miyakawa, Assistant ILO Director General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

The Philippines is the only country in Asia and the Pacific to have ratified the Domestic Workers Convention ten years on from its adoption.

There are some 38.3 million domestic workers over the age of 15 employed in Asia and the Pacific of whom 78.4 per cent are women. The region is also the largest employer of male domestic workers, accounting for 46.1 per cent of male domestic workers worldwide.

Available data indicates that the vast majority of domestic workers in the region do not have any legal limits on their working time (71 per cent), nor any legal entitlement to weekly rest (64 per cent) under current labour laws. The report also finds that domestic workers typically earn some of the lowest wages in the labour market, especially when they are informal.

COVID-19 is also estimated to have had an outsized impact on domestic workers in Asia and the Pacific with the high levels of informality and lack of legal protection leading to job losses, estimated at 2-3 times higher than other workers.

Viet Nam: from legal protection to law compliance

Viet Nam is among a few countries in the region where domestic workers are covered by the labour laws. According to the 2019 Labour Code and its subsidiary Decree 145/2020/ND-CP, they are supposed to have written contracts that meet certain standards, including limits on working hours and rest time.

Among the ASEAN countries, it is only in Viet Nam that domestic workers are entitled to a minimum wage rate at least equal to that fixed for other workers.

Although Viet Nam has taken good steps forward in including the protection of domestic workers in its labour laws, the challenge is now to gain compliance with the law and narrowing the gap between its legal protections and domestic workers’ actual experience."

Chang-Hee Lee, ILO Viet Nam Director
“Although Viet Nam has taken good steps forward in including the protection of domestic workers in its labour laws, the challenge is now to gain compliance with the law and narrowing the gap between its legal protections and domestic workers’ actual experience,” said Chang-Hee Lee, ILO Viet Nam Director.

The country plans to ratify ILO’s Domestic Workers Convention (C.189) by 2026.

According to the new ILO report, 19 per cent of domestic workers in Viet Nam work through service providers, and the outbound migration of domestic workers from the country has increased over the last decade.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic workers have been much more likely to lose their jobs compared to other employees and workers. The number of domestic workers decreased drastically by 17 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the last quarter of 2019, while the job loss among other employees over the same period was 6.1 per cent.

While some domestic workers lost their jobs, others saw a reduction in their working hours, with both of these outcomes resulting in a dramatic reduction in the total amount of wages received. In the second quarter 2020, working hours decreased by 24.7 per cent in Viet Nam compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. As a result of job losses and reductions in hours worked, the wages received by domestic workers decreased by 26.2 per cent in Viet Nam.

Asia and the Pacific snapshot

  • The Asia and the Pacific region employs 38.3 million domestic workers or 50.6 per cent of domestic workers worldwide and remains the world’s largest employer of domestic workers.
  • China accounts for a large portion of the total (22 million). Several other countries also make substantial contributions, including India (4.8 million), the Philippines (2 million), Bangladesh (1.5 million) and Indonesia (1.2 million).
  • Domestic work in the Asia and the Pacific region is performed largely by women (78.4 per cent) however, the region is also the largest employer of male domestic workers, accounting for 46.1 per cent of male domestic workers across the world.
  • In Asia and the Pacific, 61.5 per cent of domestic workers remain fully excluded from labour law.
  • 84.3 per cent of domestic workers in the region are in informal employment compared to 52.8 per cent for other employees.
  • 64 per cent of domestic workers remain excluded from the right to weekly rest in Asia and the Pacific.
  • Only 19 per cent of domestic workers in the region have the same entitlements to paid annual leave as other workers.
  • Most domestic workers in the region (71 per cent) remain without any limits on their normal weekly hours. Half of all domestic workers in Asia and the Pacific work more than 48 hours per week. This proportion reaches 58 per cent in the case of domestic workers in informal employment.
  • Compared to domestic workers globally, wages of domestic workers appear to be highest in Asia and the Pacific (65 per cent of other wage earners / 58 per cent for women).
  • Only 11 per cent of domestic workers in the region enjoy the minimum wage to the same extent as other workers.
  • Regionally, evidence from the Philippines and Viet Nam indicates that domestic workers were 2-3 times more likely than other workers to lose their jobs during the pandemic.