ILO adopts new standards for domestic workers

Faye Valencia
The Inbox

By Shielo Mendoza, Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Delegates at the 100th annual Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted new labor standards which aim to improve the working conditions of millions of domestic workers worldwide.

Protecting women and girls

Each of ILO's 183 member states — represented by two government delegates, one employer, and one worker delegate — voted to adopt the international treaty "Convention on Domestic Workers 2011" and the accompanying Recommendation, which provides a detailed guidance on how to apply the Convention.

In its introductory text, the 2011 Convention says that "domestic work continues to be undervalued and invisible and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities and who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of conditions of employment and work, and to other abuses of human rights."

Humane rules

The new ILO standards set out that domestic workers around the world who care for families and households, must have the same basic labor rights as those available to other workers:

1. Reasonable hours of work;
2. Weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours;
3. A limit on in-kind payment; and
4. Clear information on terms and conditions of employment — as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights at work including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

Hidden numbers

Based on national surveys of 117 countries, ILO estimated 53 million domestic workers in the world but experts said there could be a hundred million considering that this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered.

ILO further reported that in developing countries, domestic workers make up at least four to 12 percent of wage employment. Around 83 percent of these workers are women or girls and many are migrant workers.

PH wage rates

According to the ILO Country Office in the Philippines, Filipino domestic workers receive half of the minimum wage in the National Capital Region. Meanwhile, less than half in other parts of the country while working much longer hours than other workers who are legally entitled to a minimum.

Though in the current administration, there are pending legislative bills that establish minimum labor standards and legal rights for domestic workers, similar bills filed in the last four to five years did not reach successful conclusion, the ILO Philippine Office reported.

"The newly adopted Convention, by establishing a global set of minimum standards is expected to give further impetus to these on-going efforts, and also to provide a platform for more countries to engage in a process of reform to bring domestic workers within the mainstream of the labor and social protection," the office said in its press statement.

"Social dialogue has found its reflection in the results achieved here," concluded Department of Labor and Employment Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac, the government delegate from the Philippines who chaired the committee on Domestic Workers, as quoted by ILO's press release of the conference.