Domestic Workers – Progress and Ongoing Struggle

Domestic Workers

WIEGO's Chris Bonner, Barbro Budin and Karin Pape capture the process of forming the International Domestic Workers' Federation (IDWF) in 2013 and the domestic workers' jubilation in this Global Labour Column article: "Yes we did it!" 

28 October 2013 - The International Domestic Workers' Federation is born! This is the first global union run entirely by women, and proves that all workers can be organized to fight for their rights. Learn more and share the excitement.

19 September, 2013 - Costa Rica Passes Law to Protect Domestic Workers

5 September, 2013 – Landmark UN Labour Treaty Extends Rights for Domestic Workers WorldwideA United Nations treaty entering into force today will extend the labour and social rights of some 53 million domestic workers around the world. From today, the ILO Domestic Workers Convention (C189), adopted in 2011, will be legally binding for signatory countries.

8 September, 2013 - Domestic Workers Receive Meany-Kirkland Human Rights Award at AFL-CIO ConventionRead the story. Below, watch the video.

  • The Africa Domestic Workers Network (AfDWN) was launched in Cape Town, South Africa on 16 June 2013. Domestic workers representatives from 17 organizations, representing a total membership of 95,572 workers across 17 African countries, came together to endorse the new network. The goal is to strengthen coordination and solidarity among  domestic workers’ organizations in Africa, and use  collective power to achieve ratification of C189 and improved legislation for domestic workers in Africa. Read the declaration.
  • Both South Africa's and Germany's governments ratified C189 in June 2013. In Germany, the IUF affiliate Nahrung-Genuss-Gaststätten (union of food, hotel & restaurant and allied workers) and the German Confederation of Trade Unions’ (DGB) were instrumental in securing this ratification, along with, the ITUC and IDWN. Read more.
  • In Uruguay and Italy – both of which have ratified C189 – domestic workers have negotiated new collective agreements
  • In India, a new National-Level Trade Union of Domestic Workers (NTU-DW) was launched to unite domestic workers across the country and help them get better access to rights and security. Read more in the Deccan Herald (16 June 2013).
  • In India, the state government of Haryana has extended health insurance to domestic workers, reported the Times of India on June 7, 2013. Through the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY), domestic workers will get the benefit of smart card-based cashless health insurance cover of Rs 30,000 per annum for a family of five.
  • Michelle Chen writes in In These Times: Domestic Workers Sow a New Global Movement.
  • The ILO published Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and Regional Statistics and the Extent of Legal Protection (January 2013).
  • Brazil grants domestic workers equal labour rights -  After decades as second-class citizens under Brazil's Constitution─which long ago established a subservient category for domestic workers─a constitutional amendment passed by the Brazilian Congress will remove the clause and make domestic workers equal to other workers under the law. Read 28 March 2013 news article. A new law furthers the existing rights for social protection of domestic workers, and includes establishing an eight-hour workday, compensation for lay over and payment for extra hours, and crèche benefits for those with children under 5. Learn more.
  • Law drafted to protect domestic workers across Arab States of the Gulf - The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf hope to have a common law to regulate the domestic sector workforce, including maids, so they could have a unified job contract format for house helps. Read the 25 March 2013 story.

WIEGO gathers news about domestic workers from around the globe and posts it to our News & Events section.

Domestic Workers Rally in Thailand

In Their Own Voices

  • "C:189 - Conventional Wisdom" – A trailer and short of this film are available.
  • Organizing the Patience Industry: Profile of a Domestic Worker in Maputo, Mozambique by Ruth Castel-Branco (WIEGO Workers' Lives No. 3).
  • Domestic Workers Count Too: Implementing Protections for Domestic Workers is based on personal testimonies of workers from Bolivia, New York State, USA, the Philippines and South Africa. This ITUC-UN Women briefing kit encourages all governments to take measures to ensure domestic workers are recognized and protected by law. Read more about this resource.
  • New publication looks at the well-being of child domestic workers in six countries – Costa Rica, India, Peru, Philippines, Tanzania and Togo. Almost 1,500 child domestic workers were interviewed in the course of research for this Anti-Slavery International publication. Read Home Truths: Wellbeing and Vulnerabilities of Child Domestic Workers.

The International Domestic Workers' Federation (IDWF) website contains features and updates on the global fight for domestic workers' rights and their ongoing struggles.

Domestic Workers in Jamaica Rally