Ten years after the adoption of a UN convention that confirmed their labor rights, domestic workers are still fighting for recognition as essential service providers, the head of the International Labor Organization said Tuesday.
Working conditions for many have not improved in a decade and have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, citing a new report during a virtual news conference.
“The headline figure here is that there are at least 75.6 million domestic workers aged 15 and older at work in the world today,” said Ryder noting that they are making slow progress in their quest for inclusion in legal systems.
“And a very high proportion of that workforce are women,” he said, adding that women accounting for just over three-quarters of domestic workers.”
The ILO chief said that the presence of women is highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, where women make up 91% of the workforce in and in Europe, where women account for 89%.
By contrast, in the Arab states, men outnumber women amongst domestic workers.
- 1 in 3 women employees in North Africa
“Nevertheless, that sector in that region still accounts for one in three women employees. In North Africa and Southern Asia, the sector is more or less equally split between women and men,” said Ryder.
At the height of the crisis, job losses among domestic workers ranged from 5-20% in most European countries, and Canada and South Africa.
In the Americas, the situation was worse, with losses amounting to 25-50%.
Over the same period, job losses among other employees were less than 15% in most countries.
Overall domestic work remains a female-dominated sector, employing 57.7million women, who account for 76.2% of domestic workers.
While women make up most of the workforce in Europe and Central Asia, and the Americas, men outnumber women in Arab states (63.4%) and North Africa and make up just under half of all domestic workers in Southern Asia (42.6%).
The vast majority of domestic workers are employed in two regions.
About half (38.3 million) can be found in Asia and the Pacific – mainly on account of China – while another quarter (17.6 million) are in the Americas.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated working conditions that are already extremely poor, the report said.
Domestic workers are more vulnerable to the fallout from the pandemic because of long-standing gaps in labor and social protection, said Ryder.
The pandemic mainly affected more than 60 million domestic workers in the informal economy.
“The crisis has highlighted the urgent need to formalize domestic work to ensure their access to decent work, starting with the extension and implementation of labor and social security laws to all domestic workers,” said Ryder.
A decade ago, the adoption of the landmark Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) was hailed as a breakthrough for the tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide – most of whom are women.
There has been some progress since then, with a decrease of more than 16 percentage points in the number of domestic workers who are wholly excluded from the scope of labor laws and regulations.