Decent work for domestic workers in Asia-Pacific

In June 2010, the International Labour Conference at Geneva adopted a resolution calling for the drafting of an international Convention and supplementary Recommendation to extend labour standards and social protection to the world's domestic workers. The International Labour Office in Asia and the Pacific has been working with our Constituents and civil society in anticipation of such a decision and is now preparing for the next ILC (June 2011) where these international instruments could be formally adopted.

Across Asia, ‘domestic work’ (e.g. work carried out in the homes of others) is a common occupation. Yet domestic work is usually not recognized in many societies as ‘employment’ and the workers are often not protected by labour laws.

The total number of domestic workers in Asia and the Pacific is hard to estimate, though it’s believed their labours account for as much as 2.5 per cent of total employment in developed countries, and as much as 10 per cent in some developing countries. In China the number of domestic workers is estimated to be around 20 million, in Thailand around 700,000. The vast majority are women – mainly under the age of 40 – and in too many cases, children are still found working in the homes of others.

Questions and Answers with the ILO's Manuela Tomei on what a new labour standard would mean for domestic workers across Asia-Pacific – Q&A-Manuela Tomei

Working with Governments, Workers’ and Employers’ Organizations

The International Labour Office at Geneva and its regional and country offices in Asia and the Pacific are supporting the efforts of their constituents in preparation for the 2011 ILC. Here in Asia and the Pacific, the ILO has been laying the substantive groundwork, meeting and consulting with our constituents, since 2009.

In late 2009, in various countries across the region, technical workshops and advisory meetings were held with tripartite constituents (Governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations) to clarify the upcoming ILC discussion and in some cases to assist with responses to a Questionnaire sent from ILO Headquarters. The Questionnaire was to determine the views of the member States as regards the possibility of a new instrument to provide better social protection to domestic workers. More than a dozen member States from the Asia-Pacific region responded in time for their comments to be included in the second report.

For more on individual Asia-Pacific Countries – Promoting Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Asia-Pacific

Working with civil society organizations

In addition to the advocacy push by the international trade union movement to recognize and protect domestic workers, civil society organizations have also been very active in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand to name but a few.

The ILO continues to work with many of these organizations in support of their efforts.

Reaching out to domestic workers

An ILO guidebook to promote the rights and responsibilities of domestic workers is being published in a variety of languages. Aimed primarily at the domestic worker, the book explains the benefits and risks ssociated with domestic work and offers the worker advice on how to interact with her/his employer to achieve a mutually satisfactory working environment and system of remuneration and benefits for the worker.

This guidebook, "Domestic Work - Decent Work" is published in Burmese, English, Karen (Po and Sakaw), Laotian, Shan and Thai.

It is being disseminated via trade unions, government offices and civil society partners in 2010 and its contents are being adapted for other countries.

Download the full-colour guidebook for domestic workers in Thailand (in English) here.