Domestic Workers Convention to Enter into Force in 2013, following Second Ratification

International Labour OrganizationOn Monday, the Philippine Senate ratified the International Labor Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention (DWC), paving the way for the DWC to enter into legal force next year.  The Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers (No. 189), is the first international treaty to address the specific vulnerabilities and rights of the estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, most of whom are women and girls. [ILO, HRW] An article published last year in The New York Times details the history and context of this historic agreement’s adoption.

The DWC takes effect one year after its ratification by two countries, meaning it will enter into force one year from the effectuation of the Philippines’ ratification.  The Philippines is the second country to agree to be legally bound by the DWC, following Uruguay’s ratification in April, 2012. The International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted the DWC at last year’s annual meeting of ILO member states.

The DWC is intended to help curb abuse and exploitation of those who work in or for households (art. 1), such as excessive hours and inadequate breaks, unpaid wages, limited or no freedom to leave the home, physical and sexual abuse, being forced to work, and human trafficking. The Convention also requires States Parties to take measures to prevent violence and child labor in the domestic employment setting.

Article 3 of the DWC protects the fundamental labor related rights of domestic workers and in particular requires:

2. Each Member shall, in relation to domestic workers, take the measures set out in this Convention to respect, promote and realize the fundamental principles and rights at work, namely:

(a) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;

(b) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour;

(c) the effective abolition of child labour; and

(d) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Subsequent provisions require Member States to take measures to: establish a minimum age for domestic work and safeguards for workers under age 18, prevent abuse and violence, ensure fair terms and decent conditions of employment, make certain that workers are informed of the terms and details of their employment, regulate foreign recruitment, ensure freedom of negotiation and movement, mandate equal treatment between domestic workers and other workers with regard to compensation and benefits, regulate and monitor private employment agencies, and develop a specific complaints mechanisms, among other requirements.

At the time of the DWC’s adoption, the ILO highlighted that domestic workers “make up at least 4 to 12 percent of wage employment” in developing countries. [ILO] Because many domestic workers are girls or migrants, the Convention includes “special measures to protect those workers who, because of their young age or nationality or live-in status, may be exposed to additional risks relative to their peers.” [ILO]

For more information on the vulnerabilities and rights of domestic workers, see the ILO’s resource guide. The UN Committee on Migrant Workers monitors and promotes implementation of a related international agreement, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

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