Nicaragua this week became the third country to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on domestic workers. An ILO “convention” sets international labor standards, and the “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” convention addresses issues such as working conditions, wages, benefits and child labor while requiring nations to take measures to making decent work a reality for domestic workers.
Uruguay in April 2012 was the first to ratify the convention, followed by the Philippines in August. The convention goes into effect one year after the second country approves it.
Many countries exclude domestic workers from labor laws partially or completely, denying them basic labor protections that most other categories of workers can take for granted, such as a minimum wage or limits to hours of work. Such exclusion—together with discrimination and a profound devaluation of work associated with traditional, unpaid female roles has—led to a wide and disturbing range of abuses against domestic workers around the world, many of whom are migrants and an estimated 30 percent of whom are children under the age of 18. There are 14 million domestic workers in Latin America.
In June 2011, ILO members—made up of government, worker and employer delegates from the 183 ILO member states—took a significant step to address the omission of these workers from basic job protections by adopting the decent work convention for domestic workers.
Under the convention, a domestic worker is “any person engaged in domestic work,” which includes cleaning the house, cooking, washing and ironing clothes, taking care of children, or elderly or sick members of a family, gardening, guarding the house, driving for the family, even taking care of household pets.
The global union movement, including the Solidarity Center, which has worked for years to support domestic workers’ rights, strongly backed ratification of the convention and urges nations around the world to adopt it. The Solidarity Center’s work in Nicaragua with the Federación de Mujeres Trabajadoras Domesticas y Oficios Varios, helped support union members and human rights organizations seeking ratification of the domestic workers convention.
Check out an ILO fact sheet on Domestic Workers convention for more information.