By C. Marie Ainsborough, July 12, 2016
This is a special report from Canada’s Radio Labour. More information is available at radiolabour.net.
[C. Marie Ainsborough]: The International Trade Union Confederation has partnered with a UN agency to help improve conditions for the world’s 11.5 million migrant domestic workers. The ITUC is the organization which represents national labor centers at the world level; the UN agency is the International Labor Organization. The ILO has just released a report outlining how domestic workers can find decent work, and be protected as they work. Michelle Layton is the chief of the ILO’s Labor Migration Branch:
[Michelle Layton]: “Experts estimate the number of people over the age of 65 will double by 2050. This means that there will be a growing number of elderly people who will need long-term care. At the same time, public budgets for care services are shrinking. ILO studies show that over 11 million migrant workers now fill domestic care jobs. Many of these are women from poor countries with few employment opportunities. Today, nearly one in every five domestic workers in the world is a migrant. And of those, nearly 75 percent are women. In spite of the important contribution they make to our societies, most migrant domestic workers are not protected by labor laws and are vulnerable to exploitation. Because they are invisible, they may be trapped in abusive situations, and as migrants they may fear making a complaint. This is why the ILO has made a priority to raise awareness about the needs of domestic workers and to improve the protection of all migrant workers. The ILO is launching a report that presents concrete solutions to these challenges. If we’re going to ensure better protection for migrant workers, we need to work together to change mindsets…to recognize domestic work as work. The ILO is calling for closer cooperation between migrant domestic workers’ home countries and the countries where they work.”
[C. Marie Ainsborough]: The ILO is the UN organization which sets minimum labor standards for the world’s working people. It has adopted international laws called conventions, which it suggests countries adopt. Convention 189 is aimed at getting domestic workers covered by national labor laws. If adopted, the conventions become part of the country’s legal infrastructure. Myrtle Witbooi is President of the International Domestic Workers Federation:
[Myrtle Whitbooi]: “Many countries…don’t actually have proper labor laws, and I think, in one way the convention can help to actually push that government to have proper national laws. In the other way, like, we look at countries that do have national laws, it can actually strengthening our debate and our negotiations with our government. Because, now what’s happening is if my government has put something opn hold, I can actually now say to my government, ‘No, sorry, the ILO convention is saying that, and why are you putting things on hold?’”