Domestic workers

Domestic work

In 2011, the International Labour Conference adopted the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) and Recommendation No. 201, which aim at improving the working and living conditions of tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide. Domestic workers perform a range of tasks in households – cooking, cleaning, washing laundry, and caring for children, the elderly or persons with disability – or may work as gardeners, guards or drivers. Most of them (about 83%) are women and many are migrant workers. Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses of 117 countries, put the number of domestic workers at around 53 million. However, as domestic work is often hidden and unregistered, the total number could be 100 million.

They are often excluded from labour and social protection. However, there has been increasing recognition of their economic and social contribution and the need to improve their living and working conditions – to achieve decent work for domestic workers.

The ILO’s Conditions of Work and Employment Programme (TRAVAIL) is sharing information on patterns and conditions of domestic work through policy briefs, factsheets, technical papers and other tools. SECTOR is examining the involvement of private employment agencies in the recruitment and employment of domestic workers, within or across national boundaries (see Private employment agencies, promotion of decent work and improving the functioning of labour markets in private services sectors).

Cleaning and security

Property services sector workers clean, guard and maintain offices, shops, factories and other premises for small, medium and large property services enterprises. Some of them work in decent conditions, but many lack rights that others take for granted.

As multinational property services enterprises have expanded globally in the contract cleaning and security industries, the ILO wished to examine efforts to link better quality cleaning and security operations with greater respect for decent work and workers’ rights around the world, through research reports on Responsible contracting: An approach aimed at improving social and labour practices in property services and on Cross-national study of international framework agreements in contract cleaning and security.