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Domestic work

Labour informality affects almost 80 per cent of the 18 million domestic workers in Latin America

A new ILO study highlights the urgency in continuing legislative reform to match domestic women workers’ rights with those of the rest of the workforce, as well as complementary implementation measures. 12 countries from this region have ratified the ILO Domestic Workers Convention nº189. Its application, nonetheless, is still a colossal challenge.

News | 11 July 2016
LIMA (ILO News) – 18 million people are employed in Latin American households as domestic workers (7 per cent of the total employed population), and almost 80 per cent of them are subject to informal labour conditions – therefore lacking social security protection, earning very low salaries and exhausting workdays – as highlighted by an ILO Regional Office report published today.

“Domestic work is an occupation with one of the most high informality rates in Latin America and the Caribbean. Eight out of 10 domestic workers are affected by informality. This represents 10 per cent of all informal employment in the region,” said ILO Regional Office Director José Manuel Salazar commenting on the new report.

Salazar added that “this is a complex discrimination situation, historically enrooted in our societies of systematic servitude and attitudes making invisible the work of women, indigenous people, African descendants and migrants”.

“Improving work conditions for domestic women workers is an historical debt and a necessity if we want to make a qualitative jump forward towards the eradication of inequalities, gender-based discrimination and poverty in our region,” the ILO Regional Office Director added.

The report Domestic remunerated work formalization policies in Latin America and the Caribbean (only available in Spanish) highlights that, while the informality rate among domestic workers have been reduced by more than two per cent since 2009, it remains an overwhelming 77.5 per cent. That is 30 per cent more than the regional informality rate for non-agricultural workers, which is 47 per cent according to recent data.

The document also highlights that informality affects mostly women, who represent 93 per cent of domestic workers in the region – about 16.5 million women.

This occupation employs 14.3 per cent of all women, meaning 1 out of 7 employed women in the region is a domestic worker. Therefore, improving work conditions for domestic women workers is key to reducing gender-based inequality.