Around the world (large numbers of children are engaged in paid or unpaid domestic work in the home of a third party or employer. These children can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Their work is often hidden from the public eye, they may be isolated, and they may be working far away from their family home. Stories of the abuse of children in domestic work are all too common. On the 2013 World Day Against Child Labour we call for:
- Legislative and policy reforms to ensure the elimination of child labour in domestic work and the provision of decent work conditions and appropriate protection to young workers in domestic work who have reached the legal working age.
- ILO member States to ratify ILO Convention No. 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers and its implementation along with the ILO’s child labour Conventions.1
- Action to build the Worldwide movement against child labour and to build the capacity of domestic workers organizations to address child labour.
The nature and scale of child domestic work and the child labour problem
Many children are already involved as domestic workers before they reach the legal minimum age of employment. While young workers who have reached the required minimum legal age may undertake domestic work, international standards require that special attention is given to ensure that those who have reached the minimum age of employment but are below the age of 18 are not exposed to working conditions that are hazardous.
- Some children are working in domestic work as a result of forced labour and trafficking.
- Because of the hidden nature of much domestic work and because labour laws are commonly not applied in the sector, there are particular vulnerabilities. Stories of abuse of domestic workers are common and children are particularly vulnerable. The ILO’s child labour standards call for special attention to the situation of girls and efforts to reach out to children at special risk.
Ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No. 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers
In 2011 the ILO adopted new international standards promoting decent work for domestic workers. These standards provide a clear message: domestic workers, like other workers, have the right to decent working and living conditions.
With regard to the elimination of child labour, Convention No. 189 asks Member States to set a minimum age for domestic workers which must be consistent with the ILO’s child labour Conventions and be not lower than that established for workers generally. Convention No. 189 and Recommendation No. 201 also specify the need to identify hazardous elements of domestic work and to prohibit such work for children under the age of 18.
The ILO’s child labour Conventions are among the most widely ratified ILO Conventions; helping to provide for the necessary protection of children from child labour. The recently adopted Convention No. 189 and Recommendation No. 201 provide further support for these efforts with their clear guidance on how to avoid child labour and to protect domestic workers, including young workers legally employed in domestic work. The ratification and implementation of Convention No. 189 by ILO member States will be an important step towards realizing decent work for domestic workers, which is essential for eliminating child labour in this sector.
Protecting children from child labour
Governments have the prime responsibility to ensure that children below the minimum age of employment are in education and that young workers of legal working age are working in safe conditions. Governments should identify the types of domestic work that, by their nature or the circumstances in which they are carried out, are likely to harm the health, safety of morals of children, and should prohibit and eliminate such labour. In addition, Governments should take measures to protect young workers legally employed in domestic work, including: by:
- strictly limiting their hours of work to ensure adequate time for rest, education and training, leisure activities and family contact;
- prohibiting night work; placing restrictions on work that is excessively demanding, whether physically or psychologically;
- establishing or strengthening mechanisms to monitor their working and living conditions;
- taking measures necessary to ensure effective protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence.
Legislative action should be accompanied by law enforcement, labour inspection and compliance measures, and as relevant provision of education, training and social services for child victims. At the same time there needs to be a focus on poverty reduction and decent work alternatives for poor families whose children may be pushed into domestic work at an early age or in exploitative conditions. Governments should also ensure that the knowledge base on domestic work and child domestic work is improved, among other measures, by ensuring inclusion of such work in relevant national statistical surveys.
Social partners’ action to better protect children in child domestic work
Although governments must take the lead in tackling child labour, the ILO standards stress the important role that employers and workers organizations should play in setting and implementing action programmes against child labour. Convention No. 189 also recognises the importance of workers’ and employers’ organizations.
The international trade union movement played an active part in the process which led to the adoption of Convention No. 189 and Recommendation No. 201. Employer's representatives have also expressed their readiness to engage in dialogue to provide domestic workers with decent work conditions and to end human right violations. The social partners have a key role in promoting the organization and capacity building of domestic workers and their employers to better engage them in the implementation of Convention No. 189 and thus to also better eliminate child labour in domestic work and protect young workers of legal working age.
The Worldwide movement against child labour
Civil society organizations play an important role in the Worldwide movement against child labour. Building the Worldwide movement towards eliminating child labour and protecting young workers of legal working age in domestic work at global, national and local level is a priority.
Join us on June 12!
The World Day Against Child Labour promotes awareness and action to tackle child labour. Support for the World Day has been growing each year and in 2013 we look forward to a World Day that will again be widely supported.
- We would like you and your organization to be part of the 2013 World Day.
- Join us and add your voice to the Worldwide movement against child labour.
- For more information contact email@example.com.
Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age and Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.