ILR School

Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and Regional Statistics and the Extent of Legal Protection

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[Excerpt] Enhancing our knowledge on domestic work lays a solid basis for action that can make a difference in the lives of domestic workers. For too long, this group – a large majority of whom are women – has remained outside the realm of policy-making on social and labour issues, and has largely been confined to the informal economy. Since they work behind the closed doors of private households, domestic workers are shielded from public view and attention, and are often hard to reach by conventional policy tools. However, this should not be used as a convenient excuse for inaction. In the words of the ILO’s Director-General, “[t]he ILO’s mandate requires it to reach out to those who are most vulnerable, who face great insecurity and for whom the denial of social justice is most cruel”. Numbering at least 53 million, domestic workers are one group of workers that deserve our attention. In an unprecedented manner, this report attempts to capture the size of the domestic work sector and the extent of legal protection enjoyed by domestic workers on the basis of a verifiable and replicable methodology. Its findings contribute to overcoming the invisibility of domestic workers and carry a powerful message: domestic work represents a significant share of global wage employment, but domestic workers remain to a large extent excluded from the scope of labour laws and hence from legal protection enjoyed by other workers. Marginalization and exclusion is a theme that runs through the findings of this report. For instance – more than half of all domestic workers have no statutory limitation of their weekly working hours, more than two out of five are not entitled to be paid a minimum wage, and more than a third have no right to take maternity leave. From a human rights and gender equality perspective, this is inacceptable.

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domestic workers; legal protection; labor laws; gender equality; ILO


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Required Publisher Statement: Copyright © International Labour Organization 2013.

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