Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 95

Conceptualizing the role of intermediaries in formalizing domestic work

Domestic workers have long provided a range of services for families from cleaning and cooking to caring for children, the elderly and disabled, to driving household members and tending gardens. Despite the crucial services they provide, in many countries, domestic work is characterised by a high incidence of informal arrangements and contributes significantly to informality especially among women. The level of organization of the domestic work sector varies dramatically from country to country. In some countries, domestic workers are hired informally, by word of mouth, through social networks. In other countries, intermediaries – such as agencies, digital platforms, coops and others – play a role in recruiting, placing, and employing domestic workers. As the role of these intermediaries increases, questions arise about the impact intermediaries have on formalizing domestic work and providing decent work for domestic workers.