The UN Domestic Workers Convention is now legally binding for those countries who have agreed to the treaty, which expands labor rights to domestic workers. The landmark treaty will protect 53 million domestic workers worldwide from exploitation today, and many more to come.
For the first time in history, domestic workers will now have the same rights that other laborers and professionals already enjoy. It is estimated that 83 percent of all domestic workers are women, while the workforce also includes 10.5 million children, most of whom are underage.
Since domestic workers have the unique experience of working for private households, the usual terms of employment are not discussed. According to a study by the International Labour Organization, domestic workers are often left unregistered as employees, without well-defined terms detailing their employment. Since their status as workers and their contracts with employers were nonexistent, only 10 percent of all domestic workers enjoyed the same legal protection as workers from other industries as of the January 2013 study.
Domestic workers have long suffered from exploitation, lower pay and longer hours, and human rights abuse, without legal recourse. With the new treaty now in effect, domestic workers now have the legal power to claim their rights to a minimum wage, set hours, and days off.
The treaty was ratified by Bolivia, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Mauritius, South Africa, Italy, and the Philippines, although only two signatures from ILO member states were required to pass the measure. Germany and Costa Rica are currently in the process of ratification as well. The convention also sparked labor reforms for domestic workers in several other countries.
“The Convention and Recommendation have effectively started to play their role as catalysts for change. They now serve as a starting point for devising new polices in a growing number of countries,” said the Director of the ILO’s Working Conditions and Equality Department, Manuela Tomei.
– Jennifer Bills