Minimum wages for domestic workers

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Domestic workers are amongst the lowest paid and often amongst the most informal group of wage employees.

They are also frequently excluded from minimum wage protection. An estimated 21.5 million domestic workers have no minimum wage that is applicable to them, although they exist for other workers. Among those who are covered, many are entitled to a rate that is lower than the minimum wage for other workers.

Domestic workers should not be discriminated against. They should enjoy minimum wage coverage equivalent to that provided to other workers generally, where such coverage exists. A minimum wage recognizes the economic and social contribution of these workers and is a key means of ensuring the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

ILO Convention No. 189 recognizes that  “Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers enjoy minimum wage coverage, where such coverage exists, and that remuneration is established without discrimination based on sex” (Article 11).

Setting a minimum wage for domestic workers follows largely the same procedure as for workers in other sectors. Organizations of domestic workers and employers of domestic workers should be involved, where such bodies exist. They are most intimately aware of the challenges surrounding wages in the sector.

When extending a single national minimum wage to domestic workers, in cases where they were previously excluded from the minimum wage coverage, some countries elected to provide them gradually with equality of treatment. This gradual approach involves cases where the minimum wage is initially set at a lower level than the national minimum wage in place and is gradually increased over time to equal the national minimum wage level.

As for other sectors, minimum wage levels should be set by taking into account the needs of workers and their families, as well as economic factors.

An effective minimum wage should also take into account the working time of domestic workers, and the prevalence of live-in and live-out workers. Limits should also be placed on payments in kind. Some countries have also opted to set both hourly and monthly minimum wages to ensure effective protection.

See also ILO's thematic website on Domestic Workers: /domesticworkers