AT its 100th session in June 2012, the International Labour Conference adopted the convention concerning decent work for domestic workers and recommendation supplementing it.
The new instruments also referred to as the Domestic Workers Convention (No. 189) and Recommendation (No. 201). According to Labour Commissioner in the Ministry of Labour and Employment Mr Saul Kinemela, the convention is a strong recognition of the economic and social value of domestic work and a call for action to address the existing exclusions of domestic workers from labour and social protection.
Mr Kinemela explained that the government is in the process to ratify the new convention. What remain is blessing from the Parliament. Given that most domestic workers are women, the new standards are an important step to advance gender equality in the world of work and ensure women's equal rights and protection under the law, he added.
The Commissioner further explained that the instruments are the result of preparations which started in March 2008 and involved extended research into national law and practice regarding domestic work and consultations and discussions among the ILO's tripartite constituents, namely representatives of government and employers' and workers' organizations. United Nations partners, associations of domestic workers and Non-Governmental Organizations NGOs) contributed to this process as well.
He pointed out that, in Tanzania the new convention and its recommendations will also supplement strong efforts being done by Conservation Hotels and Domestic Alliance Worker's Union (CHODAWU) to protect domestic workers. Discussing on the need for the new instrument, delegates raised their concern over violation of human rights pointing out some obligations to member countries.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyana, President of the Republic of Indonesia said, "I believe that this convention can provide guidance to the sending and host governments to protect migrant domestic workers. Those domestic workers who work within their own countries must also be given the same protection. Thus, this convention will help us formulate effective national legislation and regulations for this purpose."
Toni Moore, worker delegate from Barbados also said, "The instruments before us are robust, practical and human and they hold tremendous potential for bringing domestic workers out of the shadows. They give faces to these workers who have been invisible for so long, barely even counted in the statistics until recently and they provide for domestic workers to be streamlined into the Decent Work Agenda."
Halimah Yacob, the Employers Vice-Chair at the 100th session of the conference added that, "We need effective and binding standards to provide decent work to our domestic workers, a clear framework to guide governments, employers and workers. Paul MacKay from New Zealand, said "We all agree on the importance of bringing domestic work into the mainstream and responding to serious human rights concerns.
All employers agree there are opportunities to do better by domestic workers and the households and families for whom they work." In accordance with the ILO's Constitution, governments have the obligation to submit the Convention and Recommendation to their national legislatures in order to promote measures for the implementation of these instruments. In the case of the Convention, the submission procedures also aim to promote ratification.
According to the most recent global and regional estimates produced by the ILO, at least 52.6 million women and men above the age of 15 were domestic workers in their main job. This figure represents some 3.6 per cent of global wage employment. Women comprise the overwhelming majority of domestic workers, 43.6 million or some 83 per cent of the total. Domestic work is an important source of wage employment for women, accounting for 7.5 per cent of women employers worldwide.
Statistical data shows that, domestic work is a growing economic sector. Domestic workers make important contributions to the functioning of households and labour markets. Nevertheless, they are often excluded from social and labour protection and face serious decent work deficits. Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and other human rights abuses. Certain groups of domestic workers or workers that reside in the household for which they work ("live-in" domestic workers) face particular vulnerabilities.
The convention which becomes binding under international law for countries that ratify it, lays basic principle and measures regarding the promotion of decent work for domestic workers. By contrast, Recommendation No. 201 is a non-binding instrument that offers practical guidance for the strengthening of national law and policies on domestic work. The recommendation builds on the provisions of the convention and needs to be read in conjunction with it.
It serves as a source of guidance for Members with regard to measures they may take to apply the convention. Moreover, the recommendation contains guidance on several matters not addressed by the convention, e.g. policies and programmes for professional development of domestic workers, worklife balance, provisions regarding statistical data and international cooperation in a number of areas, including with regard of the protection of the rights of domestic workers employed by diplomatic personnel.
The convention defines "domestic work" as work performed in or for a household or households" [(Art. 1(a)]. Domestic work may involve a range of tasks, including, cleaning the house, washing and ironing the laundry, general housework, looking after children, the elderly or persons with disabilities, as well as maintaining the garden, guarding the house premises and driving the family car. A "domestic worker" is defined in Convention No. 189 as "any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship" [Art. 1 (b)].
This definition includes domestic workers engaged on a part-time basis and those working for multiple employers, nationals and non-nationals, as well as both line-in and liveout domestic workers. The employer may be a member of the household for which the
work is performed or an agency or enterprise that employs domestic workers and makes them available to households. Self-employed persons and independent contractors are not considered as "domestic workers" under the convention.
The convention further specify that, "a person who performs domestic work only occasionally or sporadically and not on an occupational basis is not a domestic worker" [Art. 1(c)]. The expression "and not on an occupational basis" was included in this provision to ensure that day labourers and similar precarious workers remain included in the definition of "domestic workers." It is useful to recall that, "domestic work" as addressed in Convention No. 189.