Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Asia-Pacific

In June 2010, the International Labour Conference at Geneva adopted a resolution calling for the drafting of an international Convention and supplementary Recommendation to extend labour standards and social protection to the world's domestic workers. The International Labour Office in Asia and the Pacific has been working with our Constituents and civil society in anticipation of such a decision and is now preparing for the next ILC (June 2011) where these international instruments could be formally adopted.

Across Asia, ‘domestic work’ (e.g. work carried out in the homes of others) is a common occupation. Yet domestic work is usually not recognized in many societies as ‘employment’ and the workers are often not protected by labour laws.

The total number of domestic workers in Asia and the Pacific is hard to estimate, though it’s believed their labours account for as much as 2.5 per cent of total employment in developed countries, and as much as 10 per cent in some developing countries. In China the number of domestic workers is estimated to be around 20 million, in Thailand around 700,000. The vast majority are women – mainly under the age of 40 – and in too many cases, children are still found working in the homes of others.

Questions and Answers with the ILO's Manuela Tomei on what a new labour standard would mean for domestic workers across Asia-Pacific – Q&A-Manuela Tomei

Working with Governments, Worker and Employer Organizations

The International Labour Office at Geneva and its regional and country offices in Asia and the Pacific are supporting the efforts of their constituents in preparation for the 2011 ILC. Here in Asia and the Pacific, the ILO has been laying the substantive groundwork, meeting and consulting with our constituents, since 2009.

In late 2009, in various countries across the region, technical workshops and advisory meetings were held with tripartite constituents (Governments, worker and employer organizations) to clarify the upcoming ILC discussion and in some cases to assist with responses to a Questionnaire sent from ILO Headquarters. The Questionnaire was to determine the views of the member States as regards the possibility of a new instrument to provide better social protection to domestic workers. More than a dozen member States from the Asia-Pacific region responded in time for their comments to be included in the second report.

For more on individual Asia-Pacific Countries – Promoting Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Asia-Pacific

Working with civil society organizations

In addition to the advocacy push by the international trade union movement to recognize and protect domestic workers, civil society organizations have also been very active in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand to name but a few.

The ILO continues to work with many of these organizations in support of their efforts.

Reaching out to domestic workers

An ILO guidebook to promote the rights and responsibilities of domestic workers is being published in a variety of languages. Aimed primarily at the domestic worker, the book explains the benefits and risks ssociated with domestic work and offers the worker advice on how to interact with her/his employer to achieve a mutually satisfactory working environment and system of remuneration and benefits for the worker.

This guidebook, "Domestic Work - Decent Work" is published in Burmese, English, Karen (Po and Sakaw), Laotian, Shan and Thai.

It is being disseminated via trade unions, government offices and civil society partners in 2010 and its contents are being adapted for other countries.

Download the full-colour guidebook for domestic workers in Thailand (in English) here.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Allan Dow
Communications and Advocacy Officer
Tel: +662 288 2057
Fax: +662 288 3063


The garment sector is Lao PDR’s largest manufacturing employer and makes a significant contribution to annual national exports. Around 30,000 workers are employed by about 60 exporting factories and 45 subcontracting firms. Garment workers are mostly women under 25. They tend to see the work as temporary, generating extra income for their families and improving their own prospects. Most have limited a limited understanding of their contractual rights and obligations, and working conditions in the sector are often difficult, with long hours and compulsory overtime. Garment sector employers identify labour supply as their most significant constraint. For example, some report that only half their workers stay beyond three years. Firms find it hard to improve productivity while regularly losing experienced workers, and the sector remains stuck in a cycle of low productivity and high staff turnover.


The project aims to improve working conditions, productivity and competitiveness in the Lao garment manufacturing sector by strengthening the national labour inspection system to ensure compliance with national labour laws in line with international labour standards. The project will also improve workers’ and employers’ understanding of labour law and their role in ensuring good working conditions, while empowering factoring managers and employees to design and implement workplace improvement plans.

To achieve these objectives the project will work at three levels to:

• Improve the capacity of the labour inspection system to achieve compliance, using up-to-date ILO tools and methodologies and incorporate lessons learned from other labour inspectorates in the region;
• Develop and implement an awareness-raising strategy for workers and employers so that they are aware of their rights and obligations under the labour law; and,
• Implement a targeted compliance strategy for the garment sector.

Project Activities and Outputs

The project is organised around three main outcomes, with a set of activities designed to achieve each outcome.

Outcome 1: The capacity of the labour inspection system in Lao PDR is improved so that it can effectively undertake labour inspection functions for the benefit of workers and employers in the garment sector.

• The development of a national labour inspection plan setting out common objectives, standardised working procedures and key performance indicators
• The design and adoption of labour inspection tools to improve the ability of inspectors to carry out inspection visits and to collect and analyse data
• Working with the Government and social partners towards the ratification of ILO Convention No 81 on Labour Inspection

Outcome 2: Workers and employers are aware of their rights and obligations and understand how to achieve workplace compliance

• The production and dissemination of awareness-raising materials for employers and workers on national labour laws and ILO fundamental principles and rights at work
• The development and use of training materials on workers’ rights, industrial relations and productivity

Outcome 3: Factories improve working conditions and productivity through workplace cooperation using the project advisory and training services

• The creation of workplace improvement committees with worker representatives freely elected by factory workers
• Enterprise assessments to determine how to achieve compliance with national and international standards, with assistance from the labour inspectorate
• Workplace improvement plans are developed, agreed and implemented based on the assessment findings.

For further information please contact:

Ms Medeleine Jones
Chief Technical Adviser
C/O Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare
Department of Labour Management
4th floor, Pangkham Road, Vientiane, Lao PDR
Tel.: +856 20 7853 6636