Research Department Working Paper n°7

Domestic work, wages, and gender equality: Lessons from developing countries

The ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) calls for inclusion of domestic workers into minimum wage coverage and for effective measures for ensuring compliance. This paper seeks to contribute to a better understanding of developments regarding labour market participation and remuneration in the domestic work sector in comparison with other sectors, drawing on latest available household and labour surveys data and legal information from a diverse group of developing countries (Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Indonesian, Mali, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, and Viet Nam).
The paper looks at the basic characteristics of female domestic workers, gaps in minimum wage coverage, compliance, and the extent of minimum wage violations. Presenting empirical evidence on labour market inequality along gender lines, the paper discusses the role of minimum wages for reducing gender disparity and questions of regulatory design. Finally, the paper examines strategies for compliance and enforcement, arguing that there is a need for comprehensive and innovative approaches in order to ensure respect for minimum wage legislation in the domestic work sector. It concludes that minimum wages for domestic workers are indeed an important tool for promoting gender equality within a broader approach to addressing informality and worker’s empowerment.