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Monumental Success for Domestic Workers

Global Women's Project | Wed, Jun 22, 2011

As is customary of June, the International Labour Organization (ILO) held its annual conference in Geneva, Switzerland, where government, worker, and employer delegates met to discuss labour standards.

As is customary of June, the International Labour Organization (ILO) held its annual conference in Geneva, Switzerland, where government, worker, and employer delegates met to discuss labour standards.  Last June, the 99th Conference began laying the ground work for a Convention to include domestic worker rights on the next year’s agenda.  Therefore, June 16th proved to be a historic day as this year’s 100th annual International Labour Conference adopted a Convention on Domestic Workers with a vote of 396 to 16.  This Convention secures a set of international standards that are set to improve the working conditions for domestic workers around the world.  Some of these standards include the protection of domestic workers’ hours, rest, clear and fair terms of employment, and right to collective bargaining.

Adopting these standards to protect domestic workers represents a monumental shift towards making those who are made invisible, visible.  As the ILO Director-General, Juan Somavia, stated in his press release, “we are moving the standards of the ILO into the informal economy for the first time, and this is a breakthrough of great significance.”  The Convention on Domestic Workers shows that what has been historically labeled “women’s work” or work done within the private and informal sphere like cleaning, cooking, and caring for children, will no longer be devalued and disrespected.  However, this necessary Convention adoption also needs powerful oversight and backing in order for the estimated 53 million (some experts say that the unregulated market of domestic work makes this around 100 million) domestic workers to be heard, respected, and protected.

 

Jennifer Maez is the current Global Women’s Project intern this summer.  A recent graduate of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, Jennifer obtained Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies with an emphasis in Peace & Justice. Her main focus at the Center of Concern will be articulating about the current care crisis within a globalized context.