Around the globe, tens of millions of women and young girls are currently employed as domestic workers in private households. In 1999, 98.5% of domestic and migrant workers employed in the United States were women. Their duties consisted of cooking, cleaning, caring for other young children, watching after elderly family members, and other essential chores for their employers. Working 14-18 hours daily with pay well below minimum wage, domestic workers are the most exploited and abused workers in the world.
During the times of their employment, they may be locked within their workplace and made victims of physical or sexual violence. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), children and migrant domestic workers are often the most vulnerable individuals.
In June 2011, an international treaty known as the Domestic Workers Convention (DWC) was adopted as the first global standard to protect domestic workers.
With an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide, the pressure to protect them has been increasing drastically. In the last two years, over 25 countries have improved legal protections for domestic workers.
Among some of the strongest reforms are those that were created in Latin America. However, the European Union has proven to give the most challenges towards legal reforms.
Due to the growing elderly population in the EU, it has become extremely dependent on the care of domestic workers for these individuals. The Middle East and Asia have also experienced minimal change, with the worst cases of abuse. Regardless of the essential services that the domestic workers provide, the inequality and discrimination they endure is viewed as abhorrent. The influence of domestic workers’ rights movements is emphasized by the International Labour Organization and the DWC.
On September 5, 2013, the DWC was initiated into legal force. This entitles domestic workers to the same rights as those that are guaranteed to other workers. Uruguay, Philippines, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Italy, Bolivia, Paraguay, South Africa, Guyana, and Germany have all put the DWC into effect.
Despite the progress, there are still obstacles to be overcome. Although child labor has declined, child domestic labor increased by 9% between 2008 and 2012. Often times, domestic workers also become victims of forced labor and even trafficking.
Individuals have taken advocacy campaigns for unions into their own hands, however. Through meetings with government officials, social media campaigns, and various alliances, civil society groups promoted the Domestic Workers Convention.
Some countries prevent workers from organizing unions or joining ones already established. Bangladesh, Thailand, and the United States are among the countries that prevent domestic workers from forming unions.
– Samaria Garrett