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10 years on, domestic workers still fight for equality and decent work

Domestic workers are still fighting for recognition as workers and essential service providers even ten years after the adoption of a historic International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention that confirmed their labour rights. The Covid-19 situation did not make things better, according to a new ILO report.

In European countries, the pandemic left 5 to 20 per cent of domestic workers unemployed. In the Americas, numbers are even worse with losses amounting to 25-50 per cent. Over the same period, job losses among other employees were less than 15 per cent in most countries. Guy Ryder, ILO’s Director-General said;The crisis has highlighted the urgent need to formalize domestic work to ensure their access to decent work, starting with the extension and implementation of labour and social security laws to all domestic workers."

Since the adoption of the Domestic Worker Convention, in 2011, there has been progress with a decrease of more than 16 per cent in the number of domestic workers who are wholly excluded from the scope of labour laws and regulations. However, a large number of domestic workers (36 per cent) still remain wholly excluded from labour laws, pointing to the urgent need to close legal gaps, particularly in Asia and the Pacific and the Arab States, where the gaps are largest.

This issue also concerns women's rights, due to the fact that the work is female-dominated.  There are 57.7 million women performing the job, who account for 76.2 per cent of domestic workers. The number varies in regions: in Latin America and the Caribbean, 91 per cent of domestic workers are women.

Domestic workers remain among the most vulnerable workers in the economy. This is due, in part, to the lack of effective protection, as the work takes place within the private sphere of the household where public authorities have little access, and to the lack of voice and representation. The New report identifies the vulnerabilities of the sector and a number of measures that should be taken in order to ease the problem in the future. 

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