Convention Time Pt.1: The ILO convention on decent work for domestic workers

Two conventions are at the heart of the deliberations of this year’s PGA. Let’s start with the one that has not yet been signed, ratified or even adopted and the negotiations will have to be continued in the summer of 2011 – but still manages to bring a certain positive vibe to the discussions, because it is a new development probably not many had hoped for: The ILO  convention on decent work for domestic workers.

Considering that domestic work is excluded from labor laws and thus rights in many countries and that it took half a century to bring the topic to the international level, the 99th ILC’s (International Labor Conference) decision in June 20210 to provide better protection to domestic workers was a historical step.

This was in no little part thanks to the major lobbying efforts of civil society organisations and trade unions. In one of several PGA events dealing with the convention, William Gois from the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)  saw this cooperation as a sign that the migrant movement has gone on from networking to coalition building. He also saw it as an indicator that a new mindset in the labour discourse is being shaped – instead of being critical of migrants, Trade Unions were returning to the notion that “a worker is a worker is a worker – everywhere!”

Still, a lot has to be done to get the binding convention into place next year. Canada and India had been opposed to such a convention, while the support of the USA certainly helped to bring the cause forward.

So there definitely will be attempts to water down the draft. And even if the convention is ratified, there is still the  issue of implementation. But it could be an important step forward in one regard at least – changing the mindsets towards recognizing that domestic work is “real work” indeed…

See also:


About Stefan Rother

Lecturer and Researcher at the Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg -- Freelance journalist -- You can find my CV at the links below:
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