One year on, Uruguay is first to ratify ILO domestic work Convention

Uruguay becomes the first to ratify the ILO’s standard-setting Convention on Domestic Workers. The international treaty aims to improve the lives of domestic workers worldwide in the face of huge decent work deficits.

News | 14 June 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – Uruguay has become the first country to ratify a convention the ILO adopted one year ago which aims at bringing tens of millions of domestic workers under the realm of labour standards.

The South American country presented its ratification of the Convention on Domestic Workers (2011) at the May 30–June 14 International Labour Conference in Geneva.

“The process of ratification of this Convention has started. This first step opens the way,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

The Convention, adopted at the 2011 ILC, is a set of international standards aimed at improving the working conditions of domestic workers in the face of what the ILO says are huge decent work deficits.

For over 56 per cent of domestic workers worldwide, laws do not establish a limit on how long a working week can be. About 45 per cent are not even entitled to a single day off per week and 36 per cent of female domestic workers have no legal entitlement to maternity leave.

The Convention sets out that domestic workers must have the same basic labour rights as other workers, including reasonable hours of work, weekly rest, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

It “constitutes an international commitment to work on improving the living and working conditions of a very large segment of the work force which has been historically excluded, either totally or in part, from the protection of labour law,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Employment Programme.

Elizabeth Tang, of the International Domestic Workers Network said governments have already started to review legislation, in line with the Convention. “This is going to make a real impact, a real change for the better for domestic workers.”

“And, domestic workers are starting to feel they themselves are important, that they are workers,” she added.

The ILO estimates there are at least 53 million domestic workers worldwide, though the number could be about twice as high, considering that this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered. In developing countries, domestic workers make up at least 4 to 12 per cent of wage employment. Around 83 per cent of domestic workers are women or girls and many are migrant workers. A second country must ratify the Convention before it comes into force.