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Domestic Work is Work: 10 years after the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, domestic work

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, UK

Sneh Aurora and Laura Skadhauge Bloom


A decade ago, domestic workers and rights advocates rallied around a simple argument: Domestic Work is Work. They pushed for the same labour and social protections as other workers, and their tireless advocacy led to the adoption of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention (C189) in 2011, which sets global standards to ensure decent work for domestic workers.

To date, however, only 35 countries have ratified the Convention, and only 9 of these are Commonwealth nations. The rights of domestic workers are essential for sustainable development and a gender-responsive recovery from COVID-19.

Domestic workers’ rights are linked to the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDGs 5(gender equality and women’s empowerment) and SDG 8 (decent work for all). The exclusion of domestic workers from social and labour protections renders them particularly vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. To meet global targets by 2030, the standards enumerated in C189 must be implemented by all states.

Domestic workers need support in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated poor working conditions and left millions of domestic workers unemployed. To recover from this pandemic and future crises, we must ensure all workers are covered by existing safety nets. The pandemic also highlighted the importance of domestic work as more households became responsible for home-schooling and child care. As the world rebuilds and prepares for future disasters, this is a unique opportunity to put the rights of domestic workers first.

Immediate action is needed to ensure domestic workers’ fair treatment, including increased protections, decent pay, improved working conditions and an acknowledgement of the essential care that domestic workers provide to households and communities.

States must recognise the importance of domestic workers to the global economy by ratifying and implementing C189. Read the CHRI report Domestic Work is Work here.

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