Examining international standards-setting for Indonesian domestic workers in Semarang

Domestic work is considered undervalued and poorly regulated, and many domestic workers remain overworked, underpaid and unprotected.

Press release | 13 November 2009

SEMARANG (ILO News): Domestic work is considered undervalued and poorly regulated, and many domestic workers remain overworked, underpaid and unprotected. Accounts of maltreatment and abuse, especially of live-in and migrant domestic workers, are regularly reported in the media. In addition, in many countries, domestic work is largely performed by child labourers.

Domestic workers also represent the single largest group of female salaried workers toiling away in households of others in their own country or abroad. Despite of the importance of the role of domestic workers, domestic work is still not recognized as work. Since their work is done in private households, which are not considered work places in many countries, their employment relationship is not addressed in national labour laws or other legislation, denying them recognition as workers entitled to labour protection.

According to an ILO study in 2004, there were an estimated 2,593,399 domestic workers in Indonesia; of these, 1.4 million domestic workers were estimated to work in Java alone. The great majority of domestic workers are female with low educational levels; they mainly come from poor families in rural communities. Seen as informal sector work, the government’s current interpretation of national labour law excludes domestic workers from its coverage. So far, very few Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Hong Kong, have extended the coverage of national labour standards to domestic workers.

As an effort to provide better protection and recognition to domestic workers, in particular Indonesian domestic workers, the International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with Jaringan Kerja Layak Pekerja Rumah Tangga (Jakerla PRT) and SmartFM Semarang, a leading radio station in Semarang, will organize an interactive talkshow, “Domestic Workers are Workers” on Monday, 16 November, at Grand Candi Hotel, Semarang, Central Java.

The talkshow will present Siswo Laksono (Head of Provincial Manpower Office, Central Java), Mahmud Mahfud (Provincial Central Java Parliament, E Commission) Tasi Denny Septiviant (Perisai Semarang), Lita Anggraini (Jakerla PRT) and Albert Y. Bonasahat (the ILO’s Programme Coordinator on Migrant Workers).

This talkshow is held in conjunction with the ILO’s effort to promote the standards-setting for domestic workers that will lead up to next year’s International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva in June 2010 which will be instrumental in the process of developing an international instrument for domestic workers’ labour protection.

The talkshow aims to raise awareness about the plight of domestic workers in Indonesia, in particular in Semarang, and to stimulate an interactive discussion by participants on the overview of international and national level activities on standards-setting for domestic workers, status of work conditions and protection for Indonesian domestic workers, and positions of the tripartite constituents on this issue. It also aims to examine the extent as well as nature of the inclusion of domestic workers in laws relating to basic conditions of employment, including the formalization of the contract of employment, remuneration, working hours and the live-in relationship.

The Semarang talkshow is the third talkshow of a series of talkshows on standards-setting for domestic workers held by the ILO, as part of its campaign to promote the rights of domestic workers. The first two talkshows were previously conducted in Medan and Samarinda on 4 and 10 November, and the remaining three talkshows will be conducted in Makassar, Yogyakarta and Surabaya.

For further information please contact:

Albert Y. Bonasahat
ILO Programme Coordinator
Tel +6221 3913112 ext. 125

Gita Lingga
Media Officer
ILO Jakarta Office
Tel. +6221 3913112 ext. 115