Migrant Domestic Workers in Europe Photo Contest: Background information

Migrant domestic work in Europe

Increasing numbers of people migrate across international borders in search of work. In Europe, a large proportion of these people find work in others’ homes1 . These domestic workers2 are paid to vacuum and to clean, to do the dishes and to wash clothes, to shop for groceries and to cook, to work in the garden or as a driver, and to take care of children or the elderly, sick, or disabled. They do the work that allows others to work outside the home. Many migrant domestic workers do not find it as easy to lead a fulfilling life in their country of destination, as their work in the household (their workplace) is seldom recognized as work. These factors and more
make them very vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in the workplace.

But domestic work does provide important and essential services to society. For instance, caring for someone’s household, child, or other family member is a very intimate job. It requires more than cleaning skills. Being able to adjust to an employer’s preferences around the house and to communicate about intimate and emotional issues are just a few examples of how migrant domestic workers integrate in their host country’s society. Despite being almost invisible outside their workplace and having little voice in the public sphere, many migrant domestic workers find creative and empowering ways to deal with the challenges facing them at work and in their personal lives.

ILO and Domestic Work

In 2011, the ILO adopted the Domestic Worker’s Convention, 2011 (No. 189), which specifies a set of basic minimum rights all domestic workers are entitled to and which should be guaranteed by national laws. The “Promoting integration for migrant domestic workers in Europe” project is helping to increasing the awareness of integration challenges facing migrants in the domestic work sector in their destination countries.

Objective of the contest

This photo contest aims to involve women and men, employers, workers and the wider public to generate awareness about the positive contributions migrant domestic workers make to the society they live and work in, as well as their resilience and innovation for overcoming the challenges they may face.

The contest is looking for photographs that include migrant domestic workers in the work environment (their employer’s homes), in society, or in their own homes. The photographs should bring about a positive image of domestic work and migration and demonstrate the character and resilience of these workers, with a particular focus on overcoming gender barriers, achieving work and family balance, and overcoming stereotyped discrimination based on national origin, ethnicity, religious beliefs, etc.

1 In Europe, most domestic workers are migrants, though exact figures are hard to come by. On average, one in one hundred workers in Europe is a domestic worker. In Spain and Italy, about one in twenty women is a domestic worker. In Cyprus, as many as one in ten women are domestic workers!