Activities of HRDI Articles

Migrant domestic workers

Migrant domestic workers

Today women represent around half of the total population of international migrants worldwide. They move, more and more, as independent workers, usually to more developed countries in search of a better life for themselves and for their families. Reproducing patterns of gender inequality, at destination they tend to find work in traditionally female-dominated occupations such as domestic work.

The links between domestic work and female international labour migration is well established. The growing demand of households for domestic services is considered to be one of the main triggers of the feminization of labour migration which we have witnessed in past decades.

Migrant domestic workers provide indispensable services to the countries where they go, contributing to the wealth of ageing societies and to the sustainability of these countries’ welfare and employment systems. Yet, as with other migrant workers, migrant domestic workers can be confronted with additional vulnerabilities, leading to violations of their human and labour rights. Their vulnerabilities are often linked to precarious recruitment processes (including passport and contract substitution as well as charging of excessive fees), the absence of adapted assistance and protection mechanisms, the social and cultural isolation they can face at the destination due to language and cultural differences, lack of advance and accurate information on terms and conditions of employment, absence of labour law coverage and/or enforcement in the country of destination, and restrictions on freedom of movement and association, among other things.

The ILO recognizes the specific vulnerabilities to which migrant domestic workers are exposed and the need to improve labour and migration laws and policies, including policy coherence between them. In the spirit of the new ILO Convention and Recommendation – Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, 2011 (No. 189) and Recommendation No. 201 – the ILO has develoepd a Global Strategy to support its constituents in achieving decent work for domestic workers. As part of this strategy, MIGRANT seeks to expand knowledge, raise awareness, promote exchange and dialogue and develop policy tools to ensure effective protection of migrant domestic workers’ rights, promote their labour market integration in countries of destination and address the specific vulnerabilities migrant domestic workers face prior to and during their migration experience.

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