MANILA, Philippines—The Domestic Workers Convention—a treaty that provides basic labor rights to an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide, including some two million Filipinos—came into force Thursday.
“There are currently at least 53 million domestic workers worldwide, not including child domestic workers, and this number is increasing steadily in developed and developing countries,” according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
The new convention, which is now a binding international law, needed to be ratified by at least two ILO member states. But to date, eight ILO member states—the Philippines, Bolivia, Italy, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Paraguay, South Africa and Uruguay— have ratified it.
Since the convention’s adoption, several countries have passed new laws and regulations protecting their domestic workers’ labor and social rights, including the Philippines which in June passed the Kasambahay Law.
The Kasambahay Law provides protection and better working conditions for Filipino household service workers.
“All this shows that the momentum sparked by the ILO convention on domestic workers is growing. The convention and recommendation have effectively started to play their roles as catalysts for change. They now serve as a starting point for devising new polices in a growing number of countries, recognizing the dignity and value of domestic work,” said Manuela Tomei, director of the ILO’s Working Conditions and Equality Department, in a statement.
According to an ILO study from January 2013 entitled “Domestic Workers Across the World,” household workers serve in private homes often without clear terms of employment, unregistered and excluded from the scope of labor legislation.
At the time of the study, only 10 percent were covered by general labor legislation to the same extent as other workers. More than one quarter were completely excluded from national labor legislation.
“Deplorable working conditions, labor exploitation and human rights abuses are major problems facing domestic workers,” the ILO said.
It said that lack of legal protection increased the domestic workers’ vulnerability and made it difficult for them to seek remedies.
“As a result, they are often paid less than workers in comparable occupations and work longer hours,” it said.
“Today’s entry into force of Convention 189 sends a powerful signal to more than 50 million domestic workers worldwide. I hope that it will also send a signal to ILO member states and that we will soon see more and more countries committing to protect the rights of domestic workers,” said Tomei.