Domestic Workers See Gains, yet Struggle for Decent Work

Domestic Workers See Gains, yet Struggle for Decent Work

Some 70 countries around the world have taken action to advance decent work for domestic workers in the five years since the International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted Convention 189, the standard covering domestic worker rights.

The ILO passed Convention 189 on June 16, 2011, after a global coalition of domestic workers, led by the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), mobilized tens of thousands of workers in a campaign for recognition of the workplace rights of domestic workers. Following passage of the standard, workers mark June 16 as International Domestic Workers Day.

Most recently, Morocco passed a law covering gaps in coverage for domestic workers. The bill, approved May 31 by the country’s House of Representatives, sets the minimum age for domestic work at 18 years and raises salaries to 60 percent of the minimum wage provided in other employment sectors. The bill allows for a five-year transitional period in which those between ages 16 years and 18 years can perform domestic work, providing they have written and signed permission from their legal guardians.

Both the Democratic Labor Confederation (CDT) and the Moroccan Labor Union (UMT) praised the law for ending child labor, which they called a form of slavery.

‘I Work from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Six Days a Week’

Some 53 million workers labor in households around the world, often in isolation and at risk of exploitation and abuse. Guire, an Ivory Coast migrant domestic worker in Rabat, Morocco, is among them. Guire, a mother of four children who has worked two years for her employer, toils long hours for low pay and says her employer treats her poorly. (We are using first names only to protect the workers.)

Morocco, migrant domestic workers, Solidarity Center, human rights

“I work from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., six days week,” says Guire, a domestic worker in Morocco. Credit: Solidarity Center/Imane Zaghloul

“I work from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., six days week,” says Guire, 41, in an interview with Solidarity Center staff in Morocco. “The work is really hard and I sleep in the living room on a sofa.” Guire says when she became sick, her employer did not provide her with medicine and she has no way to protest her treatment.

Amma, 32, a domestic worker from the Ivory Coast who also traveled to Morocco for domestic work, says employer requires her to “do everything.”

“I do housework, cooking, gardening, take care of the children,” says Amma. She says she is forced to sleep in the garage, is given little to eat and is regularly disparaged. “I receive insults like, ‘You are an animal,’” she says.

Since 2011, 22 countries have ratified the convention on domestic workers, although Morocco is not one of them. Neither Guire nor Amma were aware of the new legislation covering domestic workers, but as Amma says: “I demand respect because we are human beings, and if we come here it is to work, not beg.”

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