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International Labour Organization (ILO) and EU-Presidency welcome moves to ensure decent work for domestic workers

18.06.2013, 17:41 GMT

An informal meeting of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs took place alongside the 102nd International Labour Conference in Geneva today. At this meeting, jointly organized by the ILO and the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, participating Ministers agreed the importance of actions in support of Convention 189 on improving the working conditions of Domestic Workers.

Mr. Richard Bruton, TD, Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and current chair of the Employment, Trade and Competitiveness Councils, welcomed the positive contributions made by his distinguished colleagues from the Netherlands, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cyprus, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Philippines, Spain and the contributions from EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor. Minister Bruton said he was very pleased that, this week, the Irish Presidency would deliver the Council Decision authorising Member States of the European Union to ratify Convention 189, and underlined his intention that Ireland would be among the early ratifiers of this important Convention.   

Thanking the Irish Presidency for its engagement Guy Ryder, Director General of the ILO, pointed out that compared to former times when “public policy making has frequently not paid any or sufficient attention to the protection needs of domestic workers and the tremendous economic and social value they bring to our societies, we now see a real momentum for change”. “Convention No. 189 and its Recommendation are a powerful demonstration that reaching out to the most vulnerable workers is possible and a challenge that concerns all ILO Member States”, he added.

Domestic work is a growing sector, in developing as well as in developed countries. ILO’s recent estimates refer to a number of 52.6 million domestic workers worldwide in 2010, compared to 33.2 million in 1995. These are significant but conservative estimates that are likely to understate the true extent of domestic work, as domestic workers are often undercounted in labour force surveys. Around the world, domestic workers endure poorest working conditions, often suffer abuse and are excluded from legal protection since most of them are employed in the hidden economy.

Minister Bruton - "The forward momentum under the Irish Presidency in respect of the ratification process in the European Union needs to be built upon and called on the EU to provide leadership in the global effort to promote decent work for domestic workers and develop this sector”.

Participants at the Informal Ministerial Meeting discussed how domestic workers can be brought into the formal economy, a win win for all can be created through better protection for vulnerable domestic workers, by increasing employment potential of the domestic work sector and harnessing quality jobs for domestic workers and for national economies. Participants were encouraged to hear of the positive steps being taken in countries where new laws and initiatives are in place to enhance protections for vulnerable domestic workers. Minister Bruton cited Ireland’s experience in the area of encouraging greater compliance by employers of domestic workers: “In Ireland, we developed a Statutory Code of Practice together with the Social Partners, which recognises the unique circumstances that occur in the domestic work employment relationship.  We have been carrying out inspections in the sector to encourage greater compliance and to educate those who engage domestic workers in their homes about their obligations as employers.”

This ILO’s call for decent work for domestic workers is being echoed by international organizations and fora. Acknowledging this broad support and the urgency of ensuring decent working conditions for domestic workers, Director General Guy Ryder stated that Convention No. 189 “as a campaigning vehicle has a tremendous value”, and that “together we can make the best possible use of it”. For his part, Minister Bruton concluded that "the forward momentum under the Irish Presidency in respect of the ratification process in the European Union needs to be built upon and called on the EU to provide leadership in the global effort to promote decent work for domestic workers and develop this sector”.

For further information please see:

-        ILO Background paper “Bringing Domestic Workers into the Formal Economy: Implementing ILO Convention No. 189

-        ILO Convention No. 189

-        ILO Recommendation No. 201

-        ILO Strategy for Action towards making Decent Work a Reality for Domestic Workers Worldwide

-        ILO Report “Ending Child labour in domestic work

-        European Commission press release “Working conditions: Commission urges Member States to implement ILO domestic workers convention


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Stefan Giffeler, Senior Communication Officer for Europe and Central Asia




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