ILO Pacific Office and UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office Celebrate Anniversary of the Adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) and Recommendation No. 201. These new standards, adopted in June 2011, are a strong recognition of the economic and social value of domestic work and a call for action to address the existing exclusions of domestic workers from labour and social protection.

Press release | Suva, Fiji | 16 June 2015
(ILO News) - Given that most domestic workers are women, the standards are also an important step in advancing gender equality in the workplace and ensuring women’s equal rights and protection under the law.

The Convention defines a “domestic worker” as “any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship”, including part-time workers, nationals and non-nationals as well as both live-in and live-out domestic workers. The employer may be a member of the household for which the work is performed or an agency or enterprise that employs domestic workers and makes them available to households.

Domestic workers tend to be part of the informal economy, often attracting low wages for largely insecure positions, both of which make domestic workers more vulnerable to financial dependence and poverty. Well-designed fiscal, wage and social protection policies can be powerful tools to reduce poverty, and, in the case of women domestic workers, to redress women’s socio-economic disadvantage and guarantee their right to an adequate standard of living.

Although the first ILO resolution concerning the conditions of employment of domestic workers was adopted as early as 1948, the road towards the adoption of Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 concretely dates back to 2008, when the ILO Governing Body decided to include the setting of standards on decent work for domestic workers in the agenda of the 2010 ILO Conference. The Convention was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the ILO members - the culmination of highly active participation and engagement of governments, employers and workers, including domestic workers themselves.

While exact numbers are not available, there are many domestic workers in Fiji and across the Pacific. The ILO and UN Women urge Pacific Island governments to review Convention 189 and to consider modifying laws and regulations to ensure consistency with the Convention’s articles, given the important contribution that domestic workers make on a social and economic level.

However, ensuring rights of domestic workers is not only in the hands of government, but also at the control of those who employ domestic workers. Thus the ILO Office for Pacific Island countries is launching a campaign amongst UN agencies to raise awareness amongst those staff who are employers of domestic workers of their own responsibilities to ensure that domestic workers enjoy decent work.

For further information about the campaign, please contact Sophia Kagan at kagan@ilo.org.